"Moreover, you scorned our people, and compared the Albanese to sheep, and according to your custom think of us with insults. Nor have you shown yourself to have any knowledge of my race. Our elders were Epirotes, where this Pirro came from, whose force could scarcely support the Romans. This Pirro, who Taranto and many other places of Italy held back with armies. I do not have to speak for the Epiroti. They are very much stronger men than your Tarantini, a species of wet men who are born only to fish. If you want to say that Albania is part of Macedonia I would concede that a lot more of our ancestors were nobles who went as far as India under Alexander the Great and defeated all those peoples with incredible difficulty. From those men come these who you called sheep. But the nature of things is not changed. Why do your men run away in the faces of sheep?"
Letter from Skanderbeg to the Prince of Taranto ▬ Skanderbeg, October 31 1460

Anna Comnena

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Hylli i Drites
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Anna Comnena

#1

Post by Hylli i Drites » Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:51 pm

Anna Comnena
The Alexiad
translated by
Elizabeth A. S. Dawes
In parentheses Publications
Byzantine Series
Cambridge, Ontario 2000



PREFACE
I. Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created
things, and drowns them in the depths of obscurity, no matter if they be quite
unworthy of mention, or most noteworthy and important, and thus, as the tragedian
says, Òhe brings from the darkness all things to the birth, and all things born envelops
in the night.Ó
But the tale of history forms a very strong bulwark against the stream of time, and
to some extent checks its irresistible flow, and, of all things done in it, as many as
history has taken over, it secures and binds together, and does not allow them to slip
away into the abyss of oblivion.
Now, I recognized this fact. I, Anna, the daughter of two royal personages, Alexius
and Irene, born and bred in the purple. I was not ignorant of letters, for I carried my
study of Greek to the highest pitch, and was also not unpractised in rhetoric; I perused
the works of Aristotle and the dialogues of Plato carefully, and enriched my mind by
the ÒquaternionÓ of learning. (I must let this out and it is not bragging to state what
nature and my zeal for learning have given me, and the gifts which God apportioned
to me at birth and time has contributed).
However, to resumeÑI intend in this writing of mine to recount the deeds done
by my father for they should certainly not be lost in silence, or swept away, as it were,
on the current of time into the sea of forgetfulness, and I shall recount not only his
achievements as Emperor, but also the services he rendered to various Emperors
before he himself received the sceptre.
II. These deeds I am going to relate, not in order to shew off my proficiency in
letters, but that matters of such importance should not be left unattested for future
generations. For even the greatest of deeds, if not haply preserved in written words
and handed down to remembrance, become extinguished in the obscurity of silence.
Now, my father, as the actual facts prove, knew both how to command and how to
obey the rulers within reasonable limits. And though I have chosen to narrate his
doings, yet I fear that the tongues of suspicion and detraction will whisper that
writing my fatherÕs history is only self-laudation, and that the historical facts, and any
praise I bestow on them, are mere falsehoods and empty panegyric. Again, on the
other hand, if he himself were to supply the materials, and facts themselves force me
to censure some of his actions, not because of him, but from the very nature of the
deed, I dread the scoffers who will cast NoahÕs son, Ham, in my teeth, for they look at
everything askew, and owing to their malice and envy, do not discern clearly what is right,
but will Òblame the blamelessÓ as Homer says. But he who undertakes the
Òr™leÓ of an historian must sink his personal likes and dislikes, and often award the
highest praise to his enemies when their actions demand it, and often, too, blame his
nearest relations if their errors require it. He must never shirk either blaming his
friends or praising his enemies. I should counsel both parties, those attacked by us and
our partisans alike, to take comfort from the fact that I have sought the evidence of the
actual deeds themselves, and the testimony of those who have seen the actions, and
the men and their actions-the fathers of some of the men now living, and the
grandfathers of others were actual eye-witnesses.
III. The reason which finally determined me to write my fatherÕs history was the
following. My lawful husband was the C¾sar Nicephorus, a scion of the clan of the
Bryennii, a man who far outshone his contemporaries by his surpassing beauty, his
superior intelligence, and his accurate speech. To look at him, or to listen to him, was
a pure delight. But I must not let my tale wander from its path, so for the present let us
keep to the main story. My husband, as I said, was most remarkable in every way; he
accompanied my brother John, the Emperor, on several other expeditions against the
barbarians É as well as on the one against É who held the city of Antioch. As
Nicephorus could not abide neglecting his literary work, he wrote several excellent
monographs even during times of stress and trouble. But his task of predilection was
that enjoyed by the Queen, to wit, a compilation of the history of the reign of Alexius,
Emperor of the Romans, and my father, and to set out the doings of his reign in books
whenever opportunity granted him a short respite from strife and warfare, and the
chance of turning his mind to his history, and literary studies. Moreover, he
approached this subject from an earlier period (for in this detail too he obeyed the
will of our mistress), and starting from {Romanus IV} Diogenes, Emperor of the
Romans, he worked down to the man about whom he had himself purposed to write.
At the accession of Diogenes my father had just entered upon his brilliant youth,
and before this was not even a full-grown boy, and had done nothing worthy of
recording, unless, forsooth, the deeds of his childhood were made the theme of a
panegyric.
Such then was the C¾sarÕs intention as his own writing shews; but his hopes were
not fulfilled, and he did not complete his history. He brought it down to the Emperor
Nicephorus (III) Botaniates, and opportunity forbade his carrying it further, thus
causing loss to the events he meant to describe, and depriving his readers of a great
pleasure. For this reason, I myself undertook to chronicle my fatherÕs doings, that the
coming generations should not overlook deeds of such importance.
Now, the harmonious structure and great charm of the C¾sarÕs writings are well
known to all who have chanced to take a look at his books. However, as I have
already mentioned, when he had got as far as my fatherÕs reign, and sketched out a
draft of it, and brought it back to us half-finished from abroad, he also, alas! brought
back with him a fatal disease. This was induced, maybe, by the endless discomfort of a
soldierÕs life, or by his over-many expeditions, or again, from his overwhelming
anxiety about us, for worrying was innate in him, and his troubles were incessant. In
addition to these causes, the varieties and severities of climate experienced,
all contributed to mix the fatal draught for him. For he started hence on an expedition
against the Syrians and Cilicians when seriously out of health; from Syria he went on
ill to the Cilicians, from them to the Pamphylians, from the Pamphylians to the
Lydians, and Lydia sent him on to Bithynia, who finally returned him to us and to the
Queen of cities suffering from an internal tumour caused by his incessant sufferings.
Yet, ill as he was, he was anxious to tell the tragic story of his adventures, but was
unable to do so, partly because of his disease, and partly because we forbade it
through fear that the effort of talking might cause the tumour to burst.
IV. Having written so far, dizziness overwhelms my soul, and tears blind my
eyes. Oh! what a counsellor the Roman Empire has lost! Oh, for his accurate
understanding of affairs, all of which he had gained from experience! And his
knowledge of literature, and his varied acquaintance with both native and foreign
learning! Think, too, of the grace of his figure and beauty of face, which would have
befitted not only a king, as the saying goes, but even a more powerful, nay, a divine
person!
To turn to myselfÑI have been conversant with dangers ever since my birth Òin
the purple,Ó so to say; and fortune has certainly not been kind to me, unless you were
to count it a smile of kind fortune to have given me ÒemperorsÓ as parents, and
allowing me to be born Òin the purple room,Ó for all the rest of my life has been one
long series of storms and revolutions. Orpheus, indeed, could move stones, trees, and
all inanimate nature, by his singing; Timotheus, too, the flute-player, by piping an
ÒorthianÓ tune to Alexander, incited the Macedonian thereby to snatch up his arms
and sword; but the tale of my woes would not cause a movement in place, nor rouse
men to arms and war, but they would move the hearer to tears, and compel sympathy
from animate, and even inanimate, nature. Verily, my grief for my C¾sar and his
unexpected death have touched my inmost soul, and the wound has pierced to the
profoundest depths of my being. All previous misfortunes compared with this
insatiable calamity I count literally as a single small drop compared with this Atlantic
Ocean, this turbulent Adriatic Sea of trouble: they were, methinks, but preludes to
this, mere smoke and heat to forewarn me of this fiery furnace and indescribable
blaze; the small daily sparks foretold this terrible conflagration. Oh! thou fire which,
though unfed, dost reduce my heart to ashes! Thou burnest and art ever kept alight in
secret, yet dost not consume. Though thou scorchest my heart thou givest me the
outward semblance of being unburnt, though thy fingers of fire have gripped me even
to the marrow of my bones, and to the dividing of my soul! However, I see that I have
let my feelings carry me away from my subject, but the mention of my C¾sar and my
grief for him have instilled devastating sorrow into me.
Now I will wipe away my tears and recover myself from my sorrow and continue
my task, and thus in the words of the tragedian: ÒI shall have double cause for tears, as
a woman who in misfortune remembers former misfortune.Ó To have as my object the
publication of the life of so great and virtuous a King will be a reminder of his
wondrous achievements, and these force me to shed warm tears, and the whole world
will weep with me. For to recall him, and make his reign known, will be a subject of
lamentation to me, but will also serve to remind others of the loss they have sustained.
Now I must begin my fatherÕs history at some definite point, and the best point
will be that from which my narrative can be absolutely clear and based on fact.

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Re: Anna Comnena

#2

Post by Hylli i Drites » Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:54 pm

BOOK I
I. The Emperor Alexius, who was also my father, had been of great service to the
Roman Empire even before he reached the throne, for he started campaigning as early
as during the reign of Romanus Diogenes. Amongst his contemporaries he shewed
himself remarkable, and a great lover of danger. In his fourteenth year he was anxious
to join the Emperor Diogenes on the extremely arduous campaign he was conducting
against the Persians, and by this very longing he declared his animosity against the
barbarians, and shewed that, if he ever should come to blows with them, he would
make his sword drunk with their blood; of such a warlike temper was the boy.
However, on that occasion the Emperor Diogenes did not allow him to accompany
him, as a heavy sorrow had befallen AlexiusÕ mother, for she was then mourning the
death of her firstborn son, Manuel, a man who had done great and admirable deeds
for his country. In order that she might not be quite inconsolable, for she did not yet
know where she had buried the elder of her sons, and if she sent the younger to the
war, she would be afraid of something untoward happening to the lad, and might not
even know in what part of the world he fell, for these reasons he compelled the boy
Alexius to return to his mother. So on that occasion he was indeed parted from his
fellow-soldiers, though sorely against his will, but the future opened out to him
countless opportunities for valiant deeds; for under the Emperor Michael Ducas, after
the deposition of the Emperor Diogenes, he shewed of what mettle he was made in his
war against Ursel.
Now this man was a Frank by birth who had been enrolled in the Roman Army,
reached a high pitch of prosperity, and after gathering a band, or rather quite a
considerable army, of men from his own country, and also of other races, he
immediately became a formidable tyrant. For when the hegemony of the Romans had
received several checks, and the luck of the Turks was in the ascendancy, and the
Romans had been driven back like dust shaken from their feet, at that moment this
man too attacked the Empire. Apart from his tyrannical nature, what more especially
incited him to openly establishing his tyranny just then was the depressed state of the
imperial affairs, and he laid waste nearly all the Eastern provinces.
Although many were entrusted with the war against him, men of high reputation
for bravery and of very great knowledge of war and fighting, yet he openly baffled
even their long experience. For sometimes he would take the offensive himself and
rout his opponents by his meteor-like attacks, and at others he obtained help from the
Turks, and was quite irresistible in his onrushes, so that he actually overpowered
some of the most powerful chieftains, and utterly confounded their phalanxes. At that
time, my father Alexius was under his brother, and openly served as lieutenant under
this man, who was invested with the command of all the armies, both of the East and
the West.
Then, just when the affairs of the Romans were in this critical condition, with this
barbarian rushing upon everything like a thunderbolt, my brilliant father Alexius was
thought of as the one man able to resist him, and appointed absolute commander by
the Emperor Michael. Accordingly he summoned up all his shrewdness and the
experience he had gained as general and soldier, and that too, by the way, he had not
had much time to gather. (But thanks to his exceeding love of industry and ever alert
intellect, the picked men among the Romans considered him to have reached the acme
of military experience, and regarded him as that famous Roman ®milius, or Scipio, or
Hannibal the Carthaginian, for he was quite young, and had still Òthe first down on
his cheeksÓ as the saying goes). This young man captured Ursel as he rushed with
might against the Romans, and restored the affairs of the East within the space of a
few days; for he was quick at discovering what was expedient, and still quicker in
executing it. The manner of his capturing Ursel is told at length by the C¾sar in the
second book of his history of his own times; but I will relate it too in as far as it
concerns my history.
II. The barbarian Tutach had just then come down with a considerable army from
the depths of the East to ravage the Roman territory. Ursel was often hard pressed by
the general, and losing one fortress after another in spite of his large army and his
men being excellently and generously equipped, because in ingenuity he was far
surpassed by my father Alexius, and he therefore determined to seek refuge for a time
with Tutach.
Finally, in absolute despair, he arranged a meeting with Tutach, offered him
friendship, and earnestly solicited him to form an alliance. However, the general
Alexius met this by a counter-stratagem, and was the quicker in winning over the
barbarian, and attracting him to his side by words and gifts and every means and
device. For he was inventive beyond ordinary men, and could find a way out of the
most impossible situations. Certainly the most effective of his methods for
conciliating Tutach was, speaking broadly, a kind of offering the right hand of
friendship; his words were these:ÑÒThe two, your Sultan and my Emperor, are
friends! This barbarian Ursel is lifting his hand against both, and he is a most
dangerous foe to both, for he keeps on attacking the latter, and is always stealing
away a bit here and there from the Roman Empire, and, on the other hand, he is
robbing Persia of parts of Persia which might have been preserved to her. In all this
he uses great art, for at present he is overshadowing me by your help, and then later,
at a propitious moment, he will leave me when he thinks himself secure, and turn
round again and attack you. So if you will listen to me, you should, when Ursel next
comes to you, seize him with superior numbers and send him captive to us. If you do
this,Ó he continued, Òyou will gain three things:Ñfirstly, such a sum of money as no
one ever gained before; secondly, you will win in addition the goodwill of the
Emperor; and as a result you will quickly reach the acme of prosperity; and thirdly,
your Sultan will be greatly pleased at the removal of so formidable a foe, who
practised violence against Romans and Turks alike.Ó This was the tenor of the
despatch sent to the afore-mentioned Tutach by my father, at that time Commander-in
Chief of the Roman Army. Together with it he also sent some members of the noblest
families as hostages; and at an agreed moment and for a sum of money, he persuaded
TutachÕs barbarian followers to seize Ursel; and this they did quickly, and after his
capture he was forwarded to the General at Amaseia.
But in the meantime the money was slow to come in, for Alexius himself had no
fund wherewith to pay it off, and the sums due from the Emperor did not arrive,
consequently, it did not only Òjourney at slow speed,Ó as the tragedian says, but it did
not come at all! TutachÕs followers meanwhile were insistent in their demands for the
money promised or for the surrender of the man they had sold and said that he should
be allowed to return to the place where he had been seized; and my father had no
means of paying the purchase-price. After spending a whole night in the greatest
perplexity, he decided to borrow the sum from the inhabitants of Amaseia. At the
break of day, though it was a hard task, he summoned them all, especially the most
influential and the richest men, and fixing his eyes on them chiefly, he said: ÒYou all
know how this barbarian has treated all the cities of the Armenian theme, how many
villages he has sacked, upon how many persons he has inflicted intolerable atrocities,
and how much money he has stolen from you. But now the moment has come for
freeing yourselves from his ill-treatment if you wish. Accordingly we must not let
him slip, for you see, I suppose, that, by the will of God above all and by our own
energy, this barbarian is now our prisoner. But Tutach, his captor, is asking us for
payment, and we are utterly penniless, for we are in a foreign country, have been
fighting against the barbarian for a considerable time, and have spent all our income.
If the Emperor had not been so far off, or the barbarian had granted us respite, I
should have endeavoured to have the money fetched from the capital; but since, as
you yourselves know, nothing of this is practicable, it is you who must contribute this
money, and whatever you subscribe, shall be repaid you from the Emperor at my
hands.Ó No sooner had he said this than he was hooted and his words excited a
terrible uproar, for the Amaseians were moved to rebellion. Certain evilly disposed
and daring fellows who were clever agitators stirred up this tumult.
A great confusion thereupon arose, for one part insisted that Ursel should be kept
prisoner, and stirred up the multitude to lay hold of him, while the other party made
a great noise (as is ever the case with a mixed rabble), and wished to seize Ursel, and
free him from his chains. The General, seeing so large a mob raging, recognized that
his affairs were indeed in a parlous state, yet he was in no wise cast down, but taking
courage, quieted the multitude with his hand. After a long time and with difficulty he
silenced them, and addressing the mob, he said: ÒI marvel, men of Amaseia, that you
are so utterly blind to the machinations of these men who deceive you, and purchase
their own safety with your blood, and continually cause you some hurt. For of what
benefit is UrselÕs tyranny to you, unless you count murders and mutilations and the
maiming of limbs as such? Now these men, the authors of your calamities, have kept
their own fortunes intact by paying court to the barbarian on the one hand, and on the
other they have received a glut of gifts from the Emperor by representing to him that
they had not surrendered you and the town to the barbarian; and that too though they
have never yet taken any account of you. For this reason they wish to support UrselÕs
tyranny, so that by fawning upon him with good wishes they may preserve their own
skins intact, and also demand honours and emoluments from the Emperor. Should,
however, any revolt occur, they will again keep themselves out of the business, and
kindle the EmperorÕs wrath against you. But if you will follow my advice, you will
bid these stirrers-up of sedition now go hang. Return quietly to your respective
homes, reflect on my proposition, and thus you will recognize who is counselling you
to your best advantage.Ó
III. On hearing these words, they changed their minds as quickly as Òheads
become tails,Ó and went home. But the General, well aware that a crowd is wont to
change its mind in a twinkling, especially if urged on by malicious men, feared that
during the night they might come upon him with fell intent, fetch out Ursel from
prison, release him from his bonds, and let him go. As his forces were insufficient to
resist such an attack, he devised the following Palamedian plan: he pretended to have
Ursel apparently blinded. Ursel was laid flat on the ground, the executioner applied
the iron, while the victim howled and groaned like a lion roaring; but all this was
only a feint of depriving him of his sight, for he who apparently was being blinded
had been ordered to shout and shriek, and he who seemingly was gouging out the
eyes, to stare harshly at his prisoner on the ground, and do everything savagely, and
yet only to act the blinding. And so Ursel was blinded, yet not blinded, and the rabble
clapped their hands, and the blinding of Ursel was buzzed about everywhere. This bit
of play-acting persuaded the whole multitude, natives and foreigners alike, to swarm
in like bees to pay their contributions. For the whole point of AlexiusÕ device was that
those who were disinclined to give money, and plotted to rescue Ursel from AlexiusÕ
my fatherÕs hands, should be foiled in their expectations, as he had now made their
plot futile; and, in consequence, failing in their plan of the previous day, would adopt
his plan, making him their friend, and averting the EmperorÕs wrath. Thus the
admirable commander, having got Ursel into his power, kept him like a lion in a
cage, with bandages still over his eyes as symbol of his supposed blinding. Even so,
he was not satisfied with what had been accomplished, nor did he relax over the rest
of the business, as if he had gained sufficient glory, but he annexed several more cities
and fortresses, and placed under the protection of the Emperor those which had fared
badly during UrselÕs rŽgime. Then he turned his horseÕs head, and rode straight to the
Royal City. But when he had reached his grandfatherÕs city he allowed himself and the
whole army a short rest from their many labours, and after that he manifested as
marvellous a deed as Heracles did in the rescue of AdmetusÕ wife, Alcestis.
For a certain Docianus, nephew of the former Emperor, Isaac Comnenus, and
cousin of this Alexius (a man too of good standing, both by birth and worth), seeing
Ursel bearing the marks of blinding, and led by the hand, heaved a deep sigh, burst
into tears over him, and denounced the GeneralÕs cruelty. Yea, he heaped blame upon
him, and upbraided him for taking the sight of such a noble fellow and a downright
hero, whom he ought to have left unpunished. To this Alexius answered at the time,
ÒMy dear friend, wait a bit, and you shall hear the reasons for his blinding Ò; and in a
little he took him and Ursel into a small room, uncovered the latterÕs face, and shewed
him UrselÕs eyes gleaming fierily. At this sight, Docianus was struck dumb with
amazement, and did not know what to make of this miracle. He repeatedly applied
his hands to UrselÕs eyes, in case what he had seen was only a dream perchance, or a
magic portent, or some other new invention of the kind; but when he grasped the
kindness his cousin had shewn to the man, and the artfulness combined with the
kindness, he was overjoyed, and embraced and kissed him repeatedly, changing his
wonder into joy. And the Emperor Michael, and his suite, and indeed everybody, felt
just the same about it.

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Re: Anna Comnena

#3

Post by Hylli i Drites » Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:56 pm

IV. Afterwards, the Emperor Nicephorus (Botaniates) who had now obtained the
throne, sent him away again to the West this time, against Nicephorus Bryennius, who
was upsetting the whole of the West by putting the crown on his own head, and
proclaiming himself Emperor of the Romans. For scarcely had Michael Ducas been
deposed, and adopted the high priestly alb and humeral in place of the imperial
diadem and cloak, than Botaniates took his place on the imperial throne, married the
princess Maria (as I will relate more circumstantially further on), and undertook the
management of the Kingdom. But Nicephorus Bryennius, on the other hand, who had
been appointed Duke of Dyrrachium in the time of the Emperor Michael, had designs
on the throne even before Nicephorus became Emperor, and meditated a revolt
against Michael. The ÒwhyÓ and ÒwhereforeÓ of this I need not relate, as his revolt has
previously been recounted in the C¾sarÕs history. And yet it is absolutely necessary
for me to narrate briefly how he used Dyrrachium as a jumping-off place for over
running all the Western provinces, how he brought them under his sway, and also the
manner of his capture. But anyone who wishes for details of this revolt we refer to the
C¾sar. Bryennius was a very clever warrior, as well as of most illustrious descent,
conspicuous by height of stature, and beauty of face, and preeminent among his
fellows by the weightiness of his judgment, and the strength of his arms. He was,
indeed, a man fit for kingship, and his persuasive powers, and his skill in
conversation, were such as to draw all to him even at first sight; consequently, by
unanimous consent both of soldiers and civilians, he was accorded the first place and
deemed worthy to rule over both the Eastern and Western dominions. On his
approaching any town, it would receive him with suppliant hands, and send him on to
the next with acclaim. Not only Botaniates was disturbed by this news, but it also
created a ferment in the home-army, and reduced the whole kingdom to despair; and,
consequently, it was decided to dispatch my father, Alexius Comnenus, lately elected
ÒDomestic of the Schools,Ó against Bryennius with all available forces. In these
regions the fortunes of the Roman Empire had sunk to their lowest ebb. For the
armies of the East were dispersed in all directions, because the Turks had over spread,
and gained command of, nearly all the countries between the Euxine Sea and the
Hellespont, and the ®gean and Syrian Seas, and the various bays, especially those
which wash Pamphylia, Cilicia, and empty themselves into the Egyptian Sea. Such
was the position of the Eastern armies, whilst in the West, so many legions had
flocked to BryenniusÕ standard that the Roman Empire was left with quite a small and
inadequate army. There still remained to her a few ÒImmortalsÓ who had only
recently grasped spear and sword, and a few soldiers from Coma, and a Celtic
regiment, that had shrunk to a small number of men. These were given to Alexius, my
father, and at the same time allied troops were called for from the Turks, and the
EmperorÕs Council ordered Alexius to start and engage in battle with Bryennius, for
he relied not so much on the army accompanying him as on the manÕs ingenuity and
cleverness in military matters. Alexius did not wait for the allies as he heard that the
enemy was pushing on fast, but armed himself and his army, marched out from the
Royal City, and passing through Thrace, pitched his camp without palisades or
trenches near the river Halmyrus. For learning that Bryennius was bivouacking in the
plains of the Cedoctus, he determined to interpose a considerable distance between
his own and the enemyÕs armies. For he was not able to face Bryennius, for fear that
the state of his forces might be detected, and the enemy have an opportunity of
observing of what numbers his army consisted. Because he was on the point of
fighting with inexperienced against experienced warriors, and with few against many,
he abandoned the idea of making a bold and open attack, and intended to win a
victory by stealth.
V. Since our story has now placed these two in opposition, Bryennius and my
father, Alexius Comnenus, both brave men (for neither was a whit behind the other in
courage, nor did the experience of the one surpass that of the other), it is worth our
while to place them in their lines and hostile array, and thence to view the fortune of
war. They certainly were both handsome and brave men, and were their bravery and
experience weighed, the balance would stand level; but we must try to understand
how fortune inclined it to one side. Bryennius, in addition to his confidence in his
forces, was protected by their experience and orderliness, whereas Alexius, on the
other hand, centred but few, and those very meagre, hopes on his army, but as
counter-defence, could rely on the strength of his scientific knowledge and his
strategic devices.
Now when they were aware of each other, and the right moment for battle had
come, Bryennius, on being informed that Alexius Comnenus had cut off his
approaches and was encamped near Calaura, drew up his troops in the following
order and marched against him. He posted the main army on the right and left wings,
and gave the command of the right to his brother John; the men in this wing
numbered 5,000, and were Italians, and those belonging to the detachment of the
famous Maniaces, as well as some horse-soldiers from Thessaly, and a detachment, of
no mean birth, of the ÒHetaireia.Ó The other, the left wing, was led by Catacalon
Tarchaniotes, and was composed of fully-armed Macedonians and Thracians,
numbering in all about 3,000. Bryennius himself held the centre of the phalanx,
consisting of Macedonians and Thracians, and the picked men of the whole nobility.
All the Thessalians were on horseback (or they were all mounted on Thessalian
horses), and what with their iron cuirasses and helmets on their heads gleaming
brightly, the horses pricking up their ears, and the shields clashing together, such a
brilliant light falling from their persons and their helmets caused terror. Bryennius
too, circling amidst them like an Ares or Giant, overtopping all the others head and
shoulders by an ell, was a sheer wonder, and object of dread to the onlookers. Outside
this regular army at about two stadesÕ distance were some allied Scythians,
distinguished by barbaric weapons. And the order given was that when the enemy
came in sight and the trumpet sounded the attack, the Scythians should at once fall
upon them from the rear, and distress the enemy by thick and continuous showers of
darts, whilst the rest should form in very close order, and attack with all their might.
That was how one general disposed his men. My father, Alexius Comnenus, on his
side, after examining the lie of the land, placed half his men in some hollows, and the
rest front to front with Bryennius. When both sections, both the hidden and the
invisible, were in battle array, he aroused the bravery of them individually by
winged words, and enjoined upon the division lying in ambush to attack suddenly,
and dash with the greatest possible force and violence against the right wing of the
enemy, as soon as they perceived they were to the rear of them. The so-called
ÒImmortals,Ó and some of the Celtic troops he reserved for himself, and took
command of them in person. He appointed Catacalon leader of the troops from Coma
and the Turkish forces, and bade him pay special attention to the Scythians and to
counter their incursions. Such then were the dispositions of the armies. Now, when
BryenniusÕ army had come near the hollows, then, immediately on my father, Alexius,
giving the signal, the men in ambush jumped out on them with wild yells and
war-cries, and by the suddenness of their onslaught, each striking and killing those
whom he chanced to meet, they threw the enemy into a panic, and compelled them to
flight. But John Bryennius, the own brother of the general, mindful hereupon of his
Òimpetuous strengthÓ and courage, turned his horse with his curb, and cutting down
at a blow the ÒImmortalÓ coming at him, stayed the discomfited phalanx, rallied the
men, and drove the enemy off. The ÒImmortals,Ó in their turn, began to flee headlong
in some disorder, and many were cut down by the soldiers who were ever behind
them.
Then, my father, hurling himself into the midst of the foe, by his valiant struggles
did indeed discomfit just that part in which he happened to be, for he struck anyone
who approached him, and laid him low at a blow, but he also hoped that some of his
soldiers were following with him and protecting him, and so he kept on fighting
desperately. But when he saw that his phalanx was by this time utterly broken, and
fleeing in all directions, he collected the more courageous souls (who were six in all),
and advised them to draw their swords, rush at Bryennius remorselessly, when they
got near him, and then, if need be, to die with him. However, a certain Theodotus, a
private, who had been my fatherÕs servant from childhood, dissuaded him from this
plan, characterizing such an attempt as mere foolhardiness. So Alexius turned in the
opposite direction, and decided to retire to a short distance from BryenniusÕ army;
then he collected the men personally known to him from the dispersed soldiery,
re-organized them, and returned to the work. But before my father could withdraw
secretly from the mlŽe, the Scythians with many yells and shouts began to harass the
men from Coma under Catacalon; and as they had little difficulty in beating these too,
and driving them to flight, they turned their minds to looting, and went off on their
own devices, for such is the Scythian nation. Before they have even entirely routed
their adversary, or consolidated their gain, they spoil their victory by looting. For all
the slaves and camp followers who formed the rear of BryenniusÕ army had pressed
forward into the ranks from fear of being killed by the Scythians; and as this crowd
was continually augmented by others who had escaped from the hands of the
Scythians, no small confusion arose in the ranks, and the standards became
commingled. In the meanwhile, my father Alexius, as we said before, was cut off and
moving about within BryenniusÕ army, when he saw one of the royal grooms leading
a horse of BryenniusÕ, decked with a purple cloth, and gilt bosses; and moreover, the
men holding the large swords which customarily accompany the Emperor were
running close beside it. On seeing this he covered his face with his vizor which
depended from the rim of his helmet, and rushing with violence against these men
with his six soldiers (whom the story has already mentioned), he not only knocked
down the groom, but also seized the royal horse, and together with it carried off the
swords, and then escaped unnoticed from the army. Arrived in a safe spot he started
off the gilt-bedight horse, and the swords which are usually carried either side of the
Emperor, and a herald with a very loud voice, bidding him run through the whole
army crying out ÒBryennius has fallen!Ó This action brought back to the battle from all
quarters many of the scattered soldiers belonging to the army of the Great Domestic
of the Schools (to wit, my father), and others it encouraged to carry on. They stood
still, where each happened to be, and having turned their eyes behind them were
astonished at the unexpected sight. And you might have witnessed a strange sight in
their case! for the heads of the horses were pointing forwards, whilst their own faces
were turned backwards, and they neither moved forwards, nor did they wish to turn
their bridles, but were quite aghast, and at their witsÕ ends to understand what had
occurred. As for the Scythians, they were dreaming of going home, and had no
intention of further pursuit. As they were now far away from both armies, they
wandered vaguely about where they were with their booty. The proclamation that
Bryennius had been taken, and overwhelmed, put courage into the whilom cowards
and fugitives, and the announcement gained credibility from the fact that the horse
was shewn everywhere with its royal accoutrements, and the large swords all but
cried aloud that Bryennius, who should be protected by them, had become the
possession of the enemy.
VI. Then fortune, too, contributed the following incident to AlexiusÕ success. A
detachment of the Turkish allies happened upon Alexius, the Great Domestic, and on
hearing that he had restored the battle, and asking where the enemy was, they
accompanied him, my father, to a little hill, and when my father pointed out the army,
they looked down upon it from an observation tower, as it were. And this was the
appearance of BryenniusÕ army; the men were all mixed up anyhow, the lines had not
yet been re-formed, and, as if they had already carried off the victory, they were
acting carelessly and thought themselves out of danger. And they had slackened off
chiefly because after the initial rout of our men, my fatherÕs contingent of Franks had
gone over to Bryennius. For when the Franks dismounted from their horses and
offered their right hands to Bryennius, according to their ancestral custom in giving
pledges, men came running up towards them from all sides to see what was
13
happening. For like a trumpet-blast the rumour had resounded throughout the army
that the Franks had joined them and deserted their Commander-in Chief, Alexius. The
officers with my father, and the newly-arrived Turks, duly noted this state of
confusion, and as a result they divided their forces into three parties and ordered two
to remain in ambush somewhere on the spot, and the third they commanded to
advance against the foe. The whole of this plan was due to Alexius.
The Turks did not attack all together, drawn up regularly into phalanx, but
separately and in small groups, standing some distance apart from each other; then he
ordered each squadron to attack, charging the enemy with their horses, and to let
loose heavy showers of darts. Following upon the Turks came my father Alexius, the
author of this strategy, with as many of his scattered men as the occasion warranted.
Next, one of the ÒImmortalsÓ with Alexius, a hot headed, venturesome fellow, spurred
on his horse, and out-riding the others, dashed at full gallop straight at Bryennius, and
thrust his spear with great violence against the latterÕs breast. Bryennius for his part
whipped out his sword quickly from its sheath, and before the spear could be driven
home, he cut it in two, and struck his adversary on the collar bone, and bringing down
the blow with the whole power of his arm, cut away the manÕs whole arm, breastplate
included.
The Turks, too, one group following up another, overshadowed the army with
their showers of darts. BryenniusÕ men were naturally taken aback by the sudden
attack, yet they collected themselves, formed themselves into line, and sustained the
shock of the battle, mutually exhorting each other to play the man. The Turks,
however, and my father, held their ground for a short time against the enemy, and
then planned to retire in regular order to a little distance, in order to lure on the
enemy, and draw them by guile to the ambuscade. When they had reached the first
ambush, they wheeled round, and met the enemy face to face. Forthwith, at a given
signal, those in ambush rode through them like swarms of wasps, from various
directions, and with their loud war-cries, and shouts, and incessant shooting, not only
filled the ears of BryenniusÕ men with a terrible din, but also utterly obscured their
sight by showering arrows upon them from all sides. Hereupon, as the army of
Bryennius could no longer put up any resistance (for by now all, both men and horses,
were sorely wounded), they turned their standard to retreat, and offered their backs as
a target to their foes. But Bryennius himself, although very weary from fighting,
shewed his courage and mettle. For at one minute, he would turn to right or left to
strike a pursuer, and at the next, carefully and cleverly arrange the details of the
retreat. He was assisted by his brother on the one side, and his son on the other, and
by their heroic defence on that occasion they seemed to the enemy miraculous.
As BryenniusÕ horse was now very weary, and unable either to flee or pursue (in
fact, it was pretty well at deathÕs door from continuous coursing), he halted it, and,
like some brave athlete, stood ready for the grip, and called a challenge to two
highborn Turks. One of these struck at him with his spear, but was not quick enough
to give him a heavy blow before receiving a heavier one himself from BryenniusÕ
right hand. For Bryennius with his sword succeeded in cutting off the manÕs hand,
which rolled to the ground, spear and all. The second man leapt off his own horse, and
like a panther, darted on to that of Bryennius, and planted himself on its flank, and
clung tightly to it, and tried to get on its back. Bryennius kept twisting round like an
animal in his endeavours to stab him with his sword.

Hylli i Drites
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Re: Anna Comnena

#4

Post by Hylli i Drites » Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:59 pm

However, he did not succeed,
for the Turk behind his back escaped all the blows by bending aside. Therefore, when
his right hand was exhausted from only encountering emptiness, and the athleteÕs
strength gave out, he surrendered there and then to the whole body of the enemy. So
the soldiers seized him, and with a feeling of having won great glory, led him away
to Alexius Comnenus, who happened to be standing not far from the spot where
Bryennius was captured, and was busy drawing up his own men, and the Turks, into
line, and inciting them to battle. News of BryenniusÕ capture had already been
brought by heralds, and then the man himself was placed before the General, and a
terrifying object he certainly was, both when fighting, and when captured. And now,
having secured Bryennius in this manner, Alexius Comnenus sent him away as the
prize of his spear to the Emperor Botaniates, without doing any injury whatsoever to
his eyes. For it was not the nature of Alexius to proceed to extremities against his
opponents after their capture as he considered that being captured was in itself
sufficient punishment, but after their capture he treated them with clemency,
friendliness and generosity. This clemency he now displayed towards Bryennius, for
after his capture he accompanied him a fair distance, and when they reached the place
called É he said to him (for he was anxious to relieve the manÕs despondency and
restore hope in him): ÒLet us get off our horses and sit down and rest awhile.Ó But
Bryennius, in fear of his life, resembled a maniac, and was by no means in need of
rest, for how should a man be who has lost all hope of life? And yet he immediately
complied with the GeneralÕs wish, for a slave readily submits to every command,
more especially if he is a prisoner of war. When the two leaders had dismounted,
Alexius at once lay down on some green grass, as if on a couch, while Bryennius sat
further off,and rested his head on the roots of a tall oak. My father slept, but Ògentle
sleep,Ó as it is called in sweet poetry, did not visit the other.
But lying there he raised his eyes and saw the sword hanging from the branches,
and as he did not see anybody about just then, he shook off his despondency,
conceived a daring plan and plotted to kill my father. And the thought would quickly
have been translated into action, had not some divine power from on high prevented
him, which appeased the fierce emotions of his mind, and forced him to look kindly at
the General. I have often heard the latter tell this tale. Whoever likes may learn from
this how God was guarding the Comnenus, like a precious object, for a greater
dignity, intending by means of him to restore the fortune of the Romans. If later on
undesirable things happened to Bryennius, the blame must be laid on certain of the
EmperorÕs courtiers; my father was blameless. Such then was the end of BryenniusÕ
rebellion.
VII. But Alexius, the Great Domestic, who was also my father, was not destined to
rest in quiet, but to proceed from one struggle to another. On his return, Borilus, a
barbarian, and confidant of Botaniates, went out from the city to meet my father, the
Great Domestic, and taking over Bryennius from him he did to him that which he did.
He also brought an order from the Emperor to my father to proceed against
Basilacius, who in his turn had now assumed the diadem, and exactly as Bryennius had
done, was making the West seethe with unrest. Now, this man Basilacius, was one of
the most conspicuous for bravery, courage, daring, and bodily strength, and as he
possessed, moreover, a domineering spirit, he took to himself all the most exalted
offices, and as for honours, he plotted for some and demanded others. And after
BryenniusÕ overthrow, this man became, as it were, his successor, and arrogated to
himself the whole business of the tyranny. Starting from Epidamnus (the metropolis
of Illyria), he pushed on to the chief city of Thessaly, having subdued all the country
on his way, and voted and acclaimed himself Emperor, and BryenniusÕ roving army
following him whithersoever he wished. Besides other admirable qualities, this man
had that fine physique, strength of arm, and dignified appearance by which rustics and
soldiers are most attracted. For they do not look through to the soul, nor have a keen
eye for virtue, but they stop at the outward excellencies of the body, and admire
daring, and strength, speed in running, and size, and consider these as fit
qualifications for the purple robe and diadem.
Now he had these qualities in no mean measure, as well as a manly, invincible
soul; in short, this Basilacius was kingly both in mind and appearance. He had a voice
like thunder, of a nature to strike fear into a whole army, and his shout was enough to
quell the courage of the boldest. Further, his eloquence was irresistible, whether he
tried to excite the soldiers to battle or check them in flight.
With all these natural advantages and an unconquerable army under his
command, the man started on his campaign, and seized the city of the Thessalians, as
we have said. My father, Alexius Comnenus, made his counter preparations as if for a
battle with the mighty Typho, or the hundred-handed Giant, and girt himself for the
fray with an antagonist worthy of his steel, by summoning all his strategic knowledge
and courageous spirit. And before he had shaken off the dust of his late contest, or
washed the gore from his sword and hands, he marched out, his spirit all aflame, like
a grim lion against this long tusked boar, Basilacius. Soon he reached the river
Bardarius {= Vardar} (for that is its local name), which comes down from the
mountains near Mysia, and after flowing through many intervening districts, and
dividing the country round BerÏa and Thessalonica into East and West, it empties
itself into our so-called South sea.
What happens in every large river is this: when a considerable embankment has
been raised by the deposit they bring down, then they flow to a lower level, and
forsaking as it were their first bed, leave it quite dry and bereft of water, and fill the
new bed they now traverse with rushing streams. Between two such channels of the
Bardarius, one the old gully, the other the newly-formed passage, lay a piece of
ground, and when that clever strategist, Alexius, my father, saw it, he pitched his
camp there, since the two channels were not more than three stades distant from one
another. The running river he considered, would be a bulwark on the one side, and
the old river-bed, which had become a deep ravine from the riverÕs strong current, he
utilized as a natural trench. The men were immediately put under orders to rest by
day, and strengthen themselves with sleep, and to give their horses a good feed; for as
soon as night fell, they would have to watch, and expect a surprise attack by the
enemy. My father made these arrangements, I believe, because he foresaw danger
from the enemy that evening. He quite expected them to attack him, for either his
long experience made him guess this, or he had other reasons for his conjecture. This
presentiment had come to him suddenly, nor did he only foresee and then neglect the
necessary precautions. No, but he left the camp with his forces and their weapons,
horses, and everything needful for battle, and left it with lights shining everywhere
and entrusted the camp, with the supplies of food and other equipment he carried
with him, to his body-servant ÒLittle John,Ó a former monk. He himself drew off to a
good distance with his troops ready armed, and sat down to await the course of
events. This was cunningly planned so that Basilacius, when he saw camp fires
burning on all sides, and my fatherÕs tent illuminated with lamps, should imagine that
he was resting inside, and that it would, consequently, be an easy matter to capture
him and get him into his power.
VIII. As we have already hinted, this presentiment of my fatherÕs was not
unfounded. For Basilacius came down suddenly upon the army he thought to find
with cavalry and infantry (10,000 men in all); there he found the menÕs quarters
lighted up everywhere, and when he saw the GeneralÕs tent gleaming, he rushed into
it with a tremendous, hair-raising shout. But as the man he expected to find was
nowhere to be seen, and no soldier or officer turned up anywhere, only a few
insignificant camp servants, he shouted still more loudly, and cried out, ÒWhere in the
world is the Stammerer?Ó thus in his words too jeering at the Great Domestic. For,
except in one respect, this Alexius, my father, had a very clear utterance, and no one
was a better natural orator than he in his arguments and demonstrations, but only
over the letter ÒrÓ his tongue lisped slightly, and stammered a little, although his
enunciation of all the other letters was quite unimpeded. Shouting such insults,
Basilacius continued his search, and turned over everything, boxes, couches, furniture,
and even my fatherÕs bed, to see whether perchance he was hidden anywhere. And he
frequently looked at ÒLittle John,Ó the monk so called. AlexiusÕ mother had carefully
arranged that he should have one of the better-born monks to share his tent in all his
campaigns, and her kindly son had yielded to his motherÕs wish, not only whilst a
child, but even after he had joined the ranks of youths; nay, indeed, until he took to
himself a wife. Basilacius searched through the whole tent, and, as Aristophanes
would say, did not stop Ògroping about in darkness,Ó while asking Little John a
stream of questions about the Domestic. On JohnÕs asserting that Alexius had gone out
with his whole army some time ago, he recognized that he had been grossly tricked,
and in utter despair, and with much noise and shouting, he yelled out: ÒFellow
soldiers, we have been deceived, the enemy is outside.Ó Hardly had he said this, as
they were going out of the camp, than my father, Alexius Comnenus, was on them, for
he had hurriedly galloped on ahead of the army with a few attendants. He noticed a
man trying to bring the heavy infantry into battle array and, by the way, the majority
of BasilaciusÕ soldiers had betaken themselves to looting and plunder (this too was an
old device of my fatherÕs), and before they could be reassembled and drawn up in line,
the Great Domestic loomed before them as a sudden danger. He, as I have said, saw
someone drawing up the phalanxes, and judging either from his size, or from the
brilliance of his armour (for his armour gleamed in the light of the stars) that he must
be Basilacius, dashed swiftly up to him, and struck at his hand, and the hand, with the
sword it held, fell to the ground-an incident which greatly upset the phalanx. But after
all it was not Basilacius himself, but a very brave man of his suite who was not a tittle
inferior in courage to Basilacius. Then Alexius with a heavy hand began a wild attack
on them; he shot with arrows, inflicted wounds with his spear, uttered war-cries,
confounded them in the darkness. He used the place, the time, everything, as a means
to victory, and availed himself of them with unperturbed mind and unshaken
judgment, and though men of both armies were fleeing in various directions, he
discerned, in every case, whether he were friend or foe. Then, too, a certain
Cappadocian, called Goules, a faithful servant of my fatherÕs, a hard hitter, of
ungovernable fury in battle, saw Basilacius, and making sure that it was he, struck
him on his helmet. But he suffered the fate of Menelaus, when fighting against Paris;
for his sword Òshattered into 3 or 4 pieces,Ó fell from his hand, and only the hilt
remained in his grip. The General seeing this straightway mocked at him for not
holding his sword tight, and called him a coward, but when the soldier shewed him
the hilt of his sword which he still grasped, he became less abusive. Another man, a
Macedonian, Peter by name, but nicknamed Tornicius, fell among the enemy and slew
a number. The phalanx followed its leader though in ignorance of what was being
done; for as the struggle was carried on in the dark, not all were able to grasp the
course of events. Comnenus would attack that part of the phalanx which was still
intact, and strike down all adversaries, and in a moment be back with his own men,
urging them to break up that portion of BasilaciusÕ phalanx which still held its
ground, and sending messages to the rear to bid them not to be so slow, but to follow
him, and overtake him more quickly. During this time, a Frank, belonging to the
DomesticÕs troops, and, to make a long story short, a brave soldier, instinct with the
spirit of Ares, noticed my father coming out from the enemyÕs centre, bare sword in
hand, all smoking with blood, and took him for one of the enemy. In a trice he fell
upon him, knocked him on the chest with his spear, and was within an ace of hurling
the General off his horse, had the General not seated himself more firmly, and
addressed the soldier by name, and threatened to cut off his head with his sword.
However, the Frank, by pleading his want of recognition, and the confusion
consequent upon a night-battle, was allowed to remain among the living!
IX. Such then were the deeds of the Domestic and a few followers during that
night. As soon as dawn smiled upon the earth, and the sun peeped over the horizon,
BasilaciusÕ officers endeavoured with all their might to drive together their men who
had abandoned the battle and been busy about the spoil. The Great Domestic also
re-formed his own lines, and then marched straight against Basilacius. Some of the
DomesticÕs troops saw stragglers from BasilaciusÕ army in the distance, so rode down
upon them, routed them, and brought some back to him alive. BasilaciusÕ brother,
Manuel, mounted a hillock, and from there encouraged his army by shouting loudly,
ÒTo-day the day and the victory are to Basilacius!Ó A certain Basileios, nicknamed
Curticius, an intimate friend of Nicephorus Bryennius (whose story we have told), and
very active in war, ran from ComnenusÕ battle line up towards this hillock. Basilacius
Manuel drew his sword, and at full speed galloped down upon him; but Curticius,
instead of taking his sword, snatched the staff hanging from his saddle-cloth, struck
Manuel on the head with it, knocked him off his horse, and dragging him bound
behind him, brought him to my father as if he were a bit of the spoils. In the
meantime, when the remnants of BasilaciusÕ army saw Comnenus advance with his
own divisions, they resisted him for a little, and then took to flight. And so Basilacius
fled, and Alexius Comnenus pursued him. When they reached Thessalonica, the
Thessalonians at once received Basilacius, but straightway barred the gates before the
General. But not even then did Alexius relax, nor did he take off his breastplate, or lay
aside his helmet, or ungird his shield from his shoulders, or cast aside his sword, but
he encamped, and threatened to besiege the city forthwith, and then sack it. As he
wished, however, to save Basilacius, he sent his monk-companion, ÒLittle JohnÓ (a
man renowned for his integrity) to him with a proposal for peace, and promised that
Basilacius should suffer no ill treatment if he gave securities, and surrendered himself
and the city. Basilacius, however, was inflexible, but the Thessalonians, through fear
of their city being taken and destroyed, granted Comnenus ingress. But Basilacius,
when he saw what was being done by the multitude, betook himself to the Acropolis
and leapt from one spot to another. Even in these extremities his fighting spirit did
not forsake him, although the Domestic gave his word that he should not be
barbarously treated; but in difficulties and dangers Basilacius ever shewed himself a
man indeed. He would not abate his courage and brave attitude in the slightest, until
at last the inhabitants and custodians of the Acropolis drove him out of it against his
will, took him by force, and handed him over to the Great Domestic. Alexius at once
sent news of his capture to the Emperor, but stayed on himself a little longer in
Thessalonica to arrange things there, and then returned to Constantinople in triumph.
Between Philippi and Amphipolis he met messengers from the Emperor who handed
him written orders about Basilacius. They took the latter in charge, led him to a
village called Chlempina, and near the spring in it put out his eyes: hence the spring is
to this day called Òthe spring of Basilacius.Ó This was the third ÒLabourÓ accomplished
by the great Alexius before he became Emperor, and he might rightly be styled a
second Heracles. For you would not be wide of the mark in calling this fellow
Basilacius the Erymanthian boar, and my most noble father Alexius, a modern
Heracles. Such, then, were the successes and achievements of Alexius before he
ascended the throne, and as reward for them all he received from the Emperor the
rank of ÒSebastos,Ó and was proclaimed ÒSebastosÓ in public assembly.
X. It seems to me that if a body is sickly, the sickliness is often aggravated by
external causes, but that occasionally, too, the causes of our illnesses spring up of
themselves, although we are apt to blame the inequalities of the climate, indiscretion
in diet, or perhaps, too, the humours of our animal juices, as the cause of our fevers.
Similarly, like these physical ailments, I fancy the weakness of the Romans at that
time was partly the cause of these deadly plagues: I mean the various men before
mentioned, the Ursels, the Basilacii, and all the crowd of pretenders, but partly, too, it
was Fate that introduced other aspirants to the throne from abroad, and foisted them
on the Empire like an irremediable sore and incurable disease. To this latter class
belonged that braggart Robert, so famed for his tyrannical disposition. Normandy
indeed begot him, but he was nursed and reared by consummate Wickedness. The
Roman Empire really brought this formidable foe upon herself by affording a pretext
for all the wars he waged against us in proposing a marriage with a foreign, barbaric
race, quite unsuitable to us; or rather it was the carelessness of the reigning Emperor,
Michael, who united our family with the Ducas. Let no one be angry with me if I
sometimes censure one of my blood-relations (for I am allied by blood to the Ducas
on my motherÕs side), for I have determined to write the truth before all things, and,
as far as this man is concerned, I have voiced the general censures. For this same
Emperor, Michael Ducas, betrothed his own son, Constantine, to this barbarianÕs
daughter, and from that arose all the hostilities. Now, we shall give an account of this
prince Constantine in due course; also of his nuptial contract, in other words this
barbaric alliance, and also of his appearance, and beauty, and size, and physical and
mental characteristics. At that point I shall also briefly deplore my own misfortunes
after I have told the tale of this alliance, and the defeat of the whole barbarian force,
and the death of these pretenders from Normandy, who had been reared against the
Roman Empire by MichaelÕs want of prudence. But first I must retrace my steps a little,
and speak of this man Robert, and give details of his descent and career, and relate to
what a pitch of power the turn of affairs had brought him, or to put it more
reverentially, how far Providence had allowed him to rise by shewing indulgence to
his mischievous desires and machinations.
This Robert was Norman by descent, of insignificant origin, in temper tyrannical,
in mind most cunning, brave in action, very clever in attacking the wealth and
substance of magnates, most obstinate in achievement, for he did not allow any
obstacle to prevent his executing his desire. His stature was so lofty that he surpassed
even the tallest, his complexion was ruddy, his hair flaxen, his shoulders were broad,
his eyes all but emitted sparks of fire, and in frame he was well-built where nature
required breadth, and was neatly and gracefully formed where less width was
necessary. So from tip to toe this man was well-proportioned, as I have repeatedly
heard many say. Now, Homer says of Achilles that when he shouted, his voice gave
his hearers the impression of a multitude in an uproar, but this manÕs cry is said to
have put thousands to flight. Thus equipped by fortune, physique and character, he
was naturally indomitable, and subordinate to nobody in the world. Powerful natures
are ever like this, people say, even though they be of somewhat obscure descent.
XI. Such then was the man, and as he would not endure any control, he departed
from Normandy with only five followers on horseback, and thirty on foot all told.
After leaving his native land, he roamed amid the mountain-ridges, caves, and hills of
Lombardy, as the chief of a robber-band, and by attacks on travellers acquired horses,
and also other possessions and weapons. Thus the prelude of this manÕs life was
marked by much bloodshed and many murders. While lingering in those parts of
Lombardy, he came under the notice of Gulielmus Mascabeles, who was then ruler
over the greater part of the territory adjacent to Lombardy, and as he drew a rich
annual income from these lands, he furnished himself with a good body of troops and
became a powerful prince. He informed himself of the manner of man, physical and ..


(more to come )

Hylli i Drites
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Re: Anna Comnena

#5

Post by Hylli i Drites » Sat Jun 13, 2009 3:32 pm

mentally, that Robert was, and then with a wonderful lack of foresight, attached him
to himself, and betrothed one of his daughters to him. The marriage was completed,
and though Gulielmus admired Robert for his strength and experience in warfare, yet
his affairs did not prosper as he had hoped. He had even given him a city as a kind of
wedding-gift, and lavished various other marks of kindness upon him. However,
Robert grew disaffected, and meditated rebellion. At first he played the friend and
gradually increased his forces until he had trebled his cavalry and doubled his
infantry. And thereafter the cloak of friendliness slipped off, and little by little his evil
disposition was laid bare. Daily he would give, or pick up, some pretext for a quarrel,
and continuously adopted courses of a kind that are wont to engender disputes, and
then fighting and wars. Since the aforesaid Gulielmus Mascabeles far surpassed him in
wealth and influence, Robert renounced all idea of meeting him openly in battle, and
concocted a wicked plot instead. For, while professing friendship and feigning
repentance, he was secretly preparing a terrible scheme, which was hard to detect, in
order to capture all MascabelesÕ towns, and make himself master of all his
possessions. As a start he opened negotiations for peace, and sent an embassy to ask
Gulielmus to come in person to a conference. Gulielmus welcomed peace with Robert,
because he was extremely fond of his daughter, and fixed a meeting for the morrow;
and Robert indicated the place where they would meet for discussion, and arranging a
truce with each other. In this place were two peaked hills rising from the plain to
equal height, and standing diametrically opposite each other; the intervening ground
was swampy, and over-grown with all manner of trees and bushes. On this ground
that crafty Robert planted an ambuscade of four very brave armed men, and adjured
them to keep careful watch all round, and as soon as they saw him at grips with
Gulielmus, to run up against the latter without an instantÕs delay. After these
preliminary preparations, Robert, the arch-schemer, forsook the hill which he had
designated beforehand for the conference with Mascabeles, and appropriated, so to
say, the second hill, and taking fifteen horsemen and about fifty-six foot-soldiers up
with him, posted them there, and then disclosed his whole plot to the more important
among them. He also commanded one to hold his armour ready for him to put on
quickly, namely, his helmet, shield, and short sword; to the four men in ambush he
had given injunctions to rush very quickly to his aid directly they saw Mascabeles at
grips with him. On the appointed day Gulielmus was coming to the hill to the spot
which Robert had indicated to him beforehand, with the intention of completing a
treaty; when Robert saw him drawing near, he met him on horseback, and embraced
and welcomed him right heartily. So they both halted on the slope, a little distance
from the summit of the hill, talking of what they meant to do. The crafty Robert
wasted the time by talking of one subject after another, and then said to Gulielmus:
ÒWhy in the world should we tire ourselves by sitting on horseback? Why not
dismount, and sit on the ground, and talk freely of the necessary matters?Ó Mascabeles
foolishly obeyed, all unaware of the guile, and the danger into which he was being
led, and when he saw Robert get off his horse, he dismounted too, and resting his
elbow on the ground, started the discussion afresh. Robert now professed fealty to
Mascabeles for the future, and called him his faithful benefactor and lord. Hereupon,
MascabelesÕ men, seeing that the leaders had dismounted, and apparently started an
argument afresh, dismounted too; or rather some did, and tied their reins to the
branches, and lay down and rested in the shade cast by the horses and the trees, while
the others rode home. For they were all tired from the warmth and want of food and
drink (for it was the summer season when the sun casts its rays vertically, and the heat
had become unbearable). So much then for these; but Robert, the sly fox, had arranged
all this beforehand, and now suddenly throws himself on Mascabeles, drops his
kindly expression for a furious one, and attacks him with murderous intent. And
gripping, he was gripped in return, and dragged, and was dragged, and together they
went rolling down the hill. When the four men waiting in ambush saw this, they
jumped out of the marsh, ran at Gulielmus, bound him, and then ran back as if to join
RobertÕs horsemen stationed on the other hill, but they were already galloping down
the slope towards them, and behind came GulielmusÕ men in hot pursuit. Robert for
his part jumped on his horse, quickly donned his helmet, seized his spear, and
brandished it fiercely and sheltering himself behind his shield, turned round, and
struck one of GulielmusÕ men such a blow with his spear that he yielded up his life on
the spot. In the meantime, he held back the rush of his father-in-lawÕs cavalry, and
checked the relief they were bringing (because when they saw RobertÕs horsemen
coming down upon them from above with the position all in their favour, they
immediately turned their backs). After Robert had in this wise stopped the onrush of
GulielmusÕ horsemen, Mascabeles was taken bound and a prisoner of war to the very
fortress which he had given as wedding-gift to Robert at the time he betrothed his
daughter to him. And so it came about that the city had its own master as ÒprisonerÓ
within it and hence probably it got its name of Òprison-house.Ó And it will not be
amiss if I enlarge on RobertÕs cruelty. For when he had once got Mascabeles in his
power, he first had all his teeth pulled out, and demanded for each of them a
stupendous weight of money, and enquired where this money was stored. He did not
leave off drawing them until he had taken all, for both teeth and money gave out
simultaneously, and then Robert cast his eyes upon GulielmusÕ eyes, and grudging
him his sight, deprived him of his eyes.
XII. Having thus become master of all MascabelesÕ possessions, he after that grew
daily in power, and becoming ever more despotic, piled cities upon cities, and money
upon money. In a short time he had risen to ducal eminence, and was nominated Duke
of all Lombardy, and from that moment everybodyÕs envy was excited against him.
But Robert, being a man with his wits very much about him, now used flattery against
his adversaries and now gifts, and so quelled uprisings among the populace, and by
his ingenuity repressed the envy of the nobility against him, and thus, by these
means, and by occasional recourse to arms, he annexed the whole realm of Lombardy,
and the neighbouring country. But this Robert was for ever aspiring at further
increase of power, and because he had visions of the Roman Empire, he alleged as
pretext his connection with the Emperor Michael, as I have said, and fanned up the
war against the Romans. For we have already stated that the Emperor Michael for
some inexplicable reason betrothed this despotÕs daughter (Helen by name) to his son,
Constantine. Now that I am mentioning this youth again, I am convulsed in spirit, and
confounded in reason: however, I will cut short my story about him, and reserve it for
the right time. Yet one thing I cannot forbear saying, even though it is out of place
here, and that is that the youth was a living statue, a Òchef dÕoeuvre,Ó so to say, of
GodÕs hands. If anyone merely looked at him, he would say that he was a descendant
of the Golden Age fabled by the Greeks; so indescribably beautiful was he. And when
I call to mind this boy after so many years I am filled with sorrow; yet I restrain my
tears, and husband them for Òmore fitting places,Ó for I do not wish to confuse this
history by mingling monodies on my sufferings with historical narration. To resume,
this youth (whom we have mentioned here and elsewhere), my predecessor, born
before I had seen the light of day, a clean, undefiled boy, had become a suitor for
Helen, RobertÕs daughter, and the written contracts had been drawn up for the
marriage, though they were not executed, only promised, as the youth was still of
immature age; and the contracts were annulled directly the Emperor Nicephorus
Botaniates ascended the throne. But I have wandered from the point, and will now
return to the point whence I wandered! That man Robert, who from a most
inconspicuous beginning had grown most conspicuous, and amassed great power,
now desired eagerly to become Roman Emperor, and with this object, sought
plausible pretexts for ill-will and war against the Romans. And there are two different
tales about this. One story which is bruited about, and reached our ears too, is that a
certain monk, named Raictor, impersonated the Emperor Michael, and had gone over
to Robert, and poured out his tale of woe to him, his marriage-connection. Michael
had seized the Roman sceptre after Diogenes, and adorned the throne for a short time,
then he was deprived of his throne by the rebel Botaniates, and embraced the
monastic life, and was later invested with the alb and mitre and add, if you like, the
humeral of an archbishop. The C¾sar John, his paternal uncle, had advised this for he
knew the lightheadedness of the reigning Emperor, and feared the worst for Michael.
It was this Michael whom the aforementioned monk, Raictor, impersonated, or if I
may call him so, ÒRectes,Ó which implies what he was, the most audacious
ÒfabricatorÓ of all time. He approached Robert on the plea of being his
marriage-kinsman, and recited to him the tragic tale of his wrongs, how he had been
driven from the imperial throne, and reduced to his present state, which Robert could
see for himself, and for all these reasons, he invoked the barbarianÕs aid. For Helen,
RobertÕs beautiful daughter, and his own daughter-in-law, had been left destitute, he
said, and openly bereft of her betrothed, as his son Constantine, and his wife, the
Princess Mary, although very unwillingly, had been compelled by force to join
BotaniatesÕ party.
By these words he inflamed the barbarianÕs mind, and armed him with a motive
for a war against the Romans. A story of this sort reached my ears, and I must own I
am not surprised that some persons of most ignoble birth impersonate those of noble
and honourable race. But on other authority a far more plausible story re-echoes in
my mind, and this story avers that no monk impersonated Michael, and that no such
event stirred Robert to war against the Romans, but that the versatile barbarian
himself easily invented the whole thing. The story runs thus, the arch-villain Robert,
who was hatching war against the Romans, and had been making his preparations for
some time, was kept in check by the nobles of highest rank in his suite, and also by his
own wife, Ga•ta, on the ground that the war would be unjust and waged against
Christians; indeed he was prevented several times when he was anxious to start. But
he was determined to procure a specious pretext for war, and therefore sent some men
to Cotrone and entrusted them with the secret of his plot, and gave them the
following directions. If they could find any monk willing to cross from there to Italy
to worship at the shrine of the chief apostles, the patron saints of Rome, and if he did
not betray his low origin too openly in his appearance, they were to welcome him
and make a friend of him, and bring him back with them. When they discovered the
aforementioned Raictor, a versatile fellow without his equal for knavery, they
signified the fact to Robert who was waiting at Salernum {= Salerno}, by a letter to this
effect: ÒYour kinsman Michael, who has been expelled from his kingdom has arrived
here to solicit your assistance.Ó For Robert had ordered them to write the letter to him
in those words. Directly he received the letter, he read it privately to his wife, and
then in an assembly of all the Counts he showed it to them too, and swore they could
no longer keep him back, as he had now got hold of a really just excuse for war. As
they all immediately fell in with RobertÕs desire, he brought the man over, and
entered into association with him. Thereupon he worked up the whole drama, and put
it in its proper stage-setting, pretending that that monk was the Emperor Michael, that
he had been deprived of his throne, and despoiled of his wife and son and all his
possessions by the usurper Botaniates, and that against all law and justice he had been
clothed in a monkÕs garb instead of a fillet and crown, and ÒNow,Ó he concluded, Òhe
has come as suppliant to us.Ó Robert used to harangue the people like this, and
professed that because of their kinship he must restore the kingdom to him. Daily he
shewed honour to the monk, as if he were the Emperor Michael, giving him the best
place at table, a higher seat, and excessive respect. In various ingenious ways also
Robert caught the ear of the public; one day he would commiserate himself on the sad
fate of his daughter; on another he did not like, out of consideration for his
marriage-kinsman, to speak of the evil days on which the latter had fallen; and on yet
another he incited and stirred up the ignorant masses round him to war by artfully
promising them heaps of gold which he said he would give them from the Imperial
treasury. Thus he led all by the nose, and drew all, rich and poor alike, out of
Lombardy, or rather he dragged the whole of Lombardy with him, and occupied
Salernum, the mother city of Amalfi. Here he made good settlements for his other
daughters, and then began his preparations for the war. He had two daughters with
him, whilst the third, ill-fated from the day of her betrothal, was confined in the
imperial city; for her young betrothed, being still immature, shrank from this alliance
at the very outset, as children do from bogeys. Of the two others, he pledged one to
Raymond, son of the Count Barcinon, and the second he married to Eubulus {= Ebal},
another very illustrious Count. In these alliances, as in all else, Robert did not fail to
have an eye to his own advantage; but from all sources he had piled up and welded
together influence for himself, from his race, his rule, his rights of kin, in a word,
from innumerable devices of which nobody else would even think.

Hylli i Drites
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Re: Anna Comnena

#6

Post by Hylli i Drites » Sat Jun 13, 2009 3:35 pm

XIII. Meanwhile, an event occurred which is worth relating, as it, too, contributed
to this manÕs reputation and good fortune. For I hold that the fact that all the rulers of
the West were prevented from attacking him, tended very materially to the
barbarianÕs successful progress. Fate worked for him on all sides, raised him to kingly
power, and accomplished everything helpful to him. Now it happened that the Pope
of Rome {Gregory VII} had a difference with Henry {IV}, King of Germany, and,
therefore, wished to draw Robert into an alliance, as the latter had already become
very notable and attained to great dominion. (The Pope is a very high dignitary, and
is protected by troops of various nationalities.) The dispute between the King and the
Pope was this: the latter accused Henry of not bestowing livings as free gifts, but
selling them for money, and occasionally entrusting archbishoprics to unworthy
recipients, and he also brought further charges of a similar nature against him. The
King of Germany on his side indicted the Pope of usurpation, as he had seized the
apostolic chair without his consent. Moreover, he had the effrontery to utter reckless
threats against the Pope, saying that if he did not resign his self-elected office, he
should be expelled from it with contumely. When these words reached the PopeÕs
ears, he vented his rage upon HenryÕs ambassadors; first he tortured them inhumanly,
then clipped their hair with scissors, and sheared their beards with a razor, and finally
committed a most indecent outrage upon them, which transcended even the insolence
of barbarians, and so sent them away. My womanly and princely dignity forbids my
naming the outrage inflicted on them, for it was not only unworthy a high priest, but
of anyone who bears the name of a Christian. I abhor this barbarianÕs idea, and more
still the deed, and I should have defiled both my pen and my paper had I described it
explicitly. But as a display of barbaric insolence, and a proof that time in its flow
produces men with shameless morals, ripe for any wickedness, this alone will suffice,
if I say, that I could not bear to disclose or relate even the tiniest word about what, he
did. And this was the work of a high priest. Oh justice! The deed of the supreme high
priest! nay, of one who claimed to be the president of the whole world, as indeed the
Latins assert and believe, but this, too, is a bit of their boasting. For when the imperial
seat was transferred from Rome hither to our native Queen of Cities, and the senate,
and the whole administration, there was also transferred the arch hieratical primacy.
And the Emperors from the very beginning have given the supreme right to the
episcopacy of Constantinople, and the Council of Chalcedon emphatically raised the
Bishop of Constantinople to the highest position, and placed all the dioceses of the
inhabited world under his jurisdiction. There can be no doubt that the insult done to
the ambassadors was aimed at the king who sent them; not only because he scourged
them, but also because he was the first to invent this new kind of outrage. For by his
actions, the Pope suggested, I think, that the power of the King was despicable, and by
this horrible outrage on his ambassadors that he, a demi-god, as it were, was treating
with a demi-ass! The Pope consequently, by wreaking his insolence on the
ambassadors, and sending them back to the King in the state I have mentioned,
provoked a very great war. To prevent the KingÕs becoming too insupportable by an
alliance with Robert, he anticipated him in sending offers of peace to Robert, though
before this he had not been friendly towards him. Hearing that Duke Robert had
occupied Salernum, he started from Rome, and came to Beneventum, and after some
intercommunication through ambassadors, they also had a personal interview in the
following way. The Pope set out from Beneventum with his household troops, and
Robert from Salernum with an army, and when the armies were at a convenient
distance, each left his own men and advanced alone. The two then met, gave and took
pledges and oaths, and then returned. The oaths were that the Pope would invest
Robert with the dignity of king, and give him help against the Romans if the need
should arise, whilst the Duke swore a counter-oath to assist the Pope whenever the
latter called upon him. But truly these oaths taken by both of them were worthless.
For the Pope was furiously incensed against the King, and in a hurry to begin war
against him, whereas Duke Robert had his eyes fixed on the Roman Empire, and was
gnashing his teeth, and whetting his anger like a wild boar. So these oaths amounted
to no more than words. And the pledges these barbarians gave to each other one day,
they violated the next. After the meeting, Robert turned his bridle and hurried to
Salernum. And that Pope (whom I can only call ÒabominableÓ when I recall his in
human outrages on the ambassadors), the Pope clad in spiritual grace and evangelic
peace, started out for civil war with all his energy and might; yes, he, the man of
peace, and the disciple of the Man of Peace! For he immediately summoned the Saxons
and their Counts Lantulphus {= Ludolf}, and Velcus {= Welf}, and besides other
enticements held out to them, he promised to make them kings of all the West, and
thus won them over to his side. You see how ever-ready a hand the Pope had for
laying hands on the heads of kings, unheeding St. PaulÕs advice ÒLay hands hastily on
no man,Ó for he bound the kingly fillet on the Duke of LombardyÕs head, and crowned
these two Saxons) When either side (to wit, Henry, King of Germany, and the Pope)
had brought up their armies, and set them in battle array, directly the horn had
sounded the attack, the lines dashed together, and there was fanned up by either side a
great and long-continued battle. So many deeds of valour were done by both parties,
and such was the endurance shewn by men already wounded by spear and arrow, that
in a short time the whole plain was submerged in a sea of blood which flowed from
the dying, and the survivors fought on, as if sailing on the abundant gore. In some
places the soldiers got entangled by the dead bodies, and fell over, and were drowned
in the river of blood. For if, as it is said, more than 30,000 men fell in that battle, what
a stream of blood was poured forth, and how large a portion of the earth was defiled
with gore! Both sides were,if I may so put it, of equal stature in the battle as long as
Lantulphus directed the combat. But when he received a mortal wound, and
straightway gave up the ghost, the PopeÕs lines gave way, and turned their backs to
the enemy, and in their flight many were killed or wounded.
Henry rushed wildly after them, being all the more heartened in the pursuit
because he had learnt that Lantulphus had fallen and become the prize of the enemy.
By and by he desisted from the chase, and bade his army take a rest. Later on he got
his army ready again, and hastened to Rome to besiege it. Hereupon, the Pope
recalled the agreement and pledges Robert had given him, and sent an embassy to ask
his help. At the same time, Henry, too, when he was starting on his march against the
ancient city of Rome sent to ask his alliance. But Robert thought both of them silly for
making such a request, and sent a verbal answer of some kind to the King, but to the
Pope he indited a letter. His letter ran as follows: ÒDuke Robert to the great
High-priest and his Overlord in God. I heard a talk of the attack made upon thee by
thy enemies, but did not attach much real importance to the rumour as I knew that
none would dare to raise his hand against thee. For what man in his senses would
assail so great a father? As for me, I would have thee know that I am arming myself
for a most serious war against a most formidable nation. For my campaign is against
the Romans, who have filled every land and sea with their trophies. But to thee I
acknowledge fidelity from the depths of my soul, and when need arises, I will prove
it.Ó And thus he dismissed the ambassadors of both those who had sought his help, the
one with this letter, and the other with plausible excuses.
XIV. But we must not omit what he did in Lombardy before he arrived in Valona
with his army. He was at all times a man of tyrannical and very sharp temper, and
now he imitated the madness of Herod. Not being satisfied with the soldiers who had
followed his fortune from the beginning, and were experienced in war, he recruited
and equipped a new army, without any distinction of age. But he collected all, under
age and over age, from all over Lombardy and Apulia, and pressed them into his
service. There you could see children and boys, and pitiable old men, who had never,
even in their dreams, seen a weapon; but were now clad in breastplates, carrying
shields and drawing their bows most unskilfully and clumsily, and usually falling on
their faces when ordered to march. These requisitions were naturally the cause of
unending trouble throughout the country of Lombardy; everywhere were heard the
lamentations of men and the weeping of women who shared the misfortunes of their
kinsfolk. One would be mourning for her husband, who was over-age for service;
another for her untried son; a third for her brother, who was a farmer or engaged in
business. This behaviour of RobertÕs was, as I have said, a counterpart of HerodÕs
madness, or even worse, for the latter only vented his rage on babes, whilst Robert
did so against boys and old men. Yet, in spite of his recruits being absolutely
unpractised, Robert drilled them daily, and brought them into good discipline.
He did all this in Salernum, before he came to Hydruntum {= Otranto}. To that
town he had sent on a very efficient army, to wait for him until he had settled
everything in Lombardy, and given fitting answers to the ambassadors. He dispatched
a further note to the Pope, however, saying that he had enjoined upon Roger, his son
(whom he had appointed ruler of the whole of Apulia, in conjunction with his brother
Boritylas), to waste no time in going with a formidable troop to the help of the
Roman See against King Henry as soon as the Pope summoned him. But Bohemond,
his younger son, he sent ahead with a powerful army to our territory to leap upon the
country round Valona (or Aulon). Now, Bohemond took after his father in all things,
in audacity, bodily strength, bravery, and untamable temper; for he was of exactly the
same stamp as his father, and a living model of the latterÕs character. Immediately on
arrival, he fell like a thunderbolt, with threats and irresistible dash upon Canina,
Hiericho, and Valona, and seized them, and as he fought his way on, he would ever
devastate and set fire to the surrounding districts. He was, in very truth, like the
pungent smoke which precedes a fire, and a prelude of attack before the actual attack.
These two, father and son, might rightly be termed Òthe caterpillar and the locustÓ; for
whatever escaped Robert, that his son Bohemond took to him and devoured.
However, do not let us cross to Valona with Robert yet, but examine first what he did
on the opposite continent.
XV. Leaving Salernum, he came to Hydruntum, and there spent a few days
waiting for his wife, Ga•ta (for she too accompanied her husband, and when dressed in
full armour the woman was a fearsome sight). After he had embraced her on arrival,
he set off again with his whole army, and took possession of Brindisi, the seaport
which has the best harbour in the whole of Iapygia. After swooping down on this
town he stayed there, eagerly awaiting the gathering together of his whole army, and
of all his ships, transports and long ships of war alike; for he intended to sail for the
opposite coast from this port. At the same time, he was also eagerly watching for an
answer from the reigning monarch, Botaniates, who had seized the sceptre from the
Emperor Michael Ducas; for while still at Salernum, Robert had sent one of the nobles
in his cortge, Raoul by name, as ambassador to him. He had charged him with
certain remonstrances to Botaniates, and apparently specious reasons for the
impending war. These were that Botaniates had separated his daughter from her
betrothed, Prince Constantine (to whom she was affianced, as I have stated above),
and taken the crown from Constantine; therefore, he himself was getting ready for
war because Botaniates had committed an injustice. And, moreover, he had sent some
presents and letters promising his friendship to the Great Domestic and Commander
of the Armies of the West (and this was my father, Alexius). Whilst awaiting these
answers he kept quiet at Brindisi; but before the troops had all been collected there, or
the greater part of the ships launched, Raoul returned from Byzantium. He brought no
answer to RobertÕs denunciations, and this fanned the flames of the barbarianÕs anger
afresh. But he was even more incensed by RaoulÕs laying before him arguments to
dissuade him from the war against the Romans. The first was that the monk in his
train was a deceiver, and cheat, and only impersonating the Emperor Michael, and
that the whole story about him was a pure fabrication. For he told how he had seen
Michael in the royal city after his deposition from the throne clad in a grey habit, and
living in a monastery, as he had made it his special business to see the deposed king
with his own eyes. Secondly, he gave news of the events which had occurred during
his return journeyÑnamely, that my father had grasped the sceptre (as I will recount
later), driven Botaniates out of the kingdom, sent for DucasÕ son, Constantine, the
most distinguished of all men living, and had again given him a share in the
government. Raoul had heard this on his way, and brought it forward in the hope of
persuading Robert to relinquish his military preparation. ÒFor with what justice,Ó he
said, Òcan we go to war with Alexius, when it was Botaniates who was the author of
the wrong done you, and who deprived your daughter Helen of the Roman throne?
Wrongs done to us by one set of men should not make us wage war upon others who
have never offended against justice. And if your war has no just basis, then all will be
lost, ships, equipment, men, in fine, all your military preparations.Ó These words
exasperated Robert still further; he went quite mad, and nearly did Raoul personal
violence. On the other hand, that fictitious Ducas, and pseudo-emperor Michael
(whom we have called ÒRaictorÓ), waxed most indignant and angry, and did not know
how to contain his wrath when it was so clearly proved that he was not the Emperor
Ducas, but merely a fictitious king. The tyrant Robert had yet another cause for his
fury against Raoul, for RaoulÕs brother Roger had deserted to the Romans, and had
given them detailed information of the military preparations that were being made
against them, so he burned to do Raoul some harm, and threatened him with instant
death. Raoul, however, who was not at all slow to take flight, escaped to Bohemond,
as being the nearest refuge. Raictor vented the most abominable threats against
RaoulÕs brother, the deserter. With loud cries, and beatings of his thigh with his right
hand, he implored Robert, saying, ÒOne thing only I beg of youÑif ever I recover the
crown, and am restored to the throne, hand over Roger to me, and then, if I do not
condemn him to the most miserable death, and crucify him in the middle of the city,
then may God do so to me, and more also!Ó But as I write I have to laugh at the
thought of these menÕs folly and infatuation, and especially at their mutual
boastfulness. Robert, for his part, had as ostensible reason this pretender, whom he
had used as a decoy, and presentment of the Emperor, his marriage-kinsman. He
showed him in all the cities he visited, and roused all he could possibly persuade to
rebellion, purposing, if the haphazards of war ended in success for himself, to knock
the monk on the head, and cast him out with scorn; for when the hunt is over, the
decoy, too, is thrown to the dogs. Raictor, on his side, nourished himself on vain
hopes that some day he would attain great power; for such things often happen quite
unexpectedly. In that case he would lay hold of the sceptre with firm hand, taking it
for granted that the Roman people, and the army, would never call the barbarian
Robert to the throne. In the meantime, he would use Robert as an instrument for the
completion of the whole fabric of his intrigue. When I think of all this, a smile rises to
my lips as I wield my pen by the light of my lamp.
XVI. Robert now collected all his forces at Brindisi, both ships and soldiers; the
ships numbered 150, and the soldiers, when all ranks were counted together, came to
30,000; and each ship could transport 200 men with their armour and horses. The
soldiers were fully equipped in this way, because the enemies they would meet on
landing would probably be fully-armed horsemen. Robert intended crossing to
Epidamnus, which we must call ÒDyrrachiumÓ {= Durazzo}, according to the present
fashion. He had, indeed, thought of crossing from Hydruntum to Nicopolis, and
seizing Naupactus and the adjacent country, and all the fortresses round about it. But
as the stretch of sea between these two towns was far wider than between Brindisi and
Dyrrachium, he chose the latter in preference to the former, not only because he
preferred the quicker passage, but also to secure a calm one for the fleet. For the
season was stormy, and as the sun was turning to the southern hemisphere, and
approaching Capricorn, the days were growing shorter. Therefore, to prevent the
fleetÕs setting out from Hydruntum at daybreak and sailing all night, and perhaps
meeting heavy seas, he determined to proceed from Brindisi to Dyrrachium with all
sails set. As the Adriatic Sea contracts here, the length of the passage was curtailed. He
did not after all leave even his son Roger behind, as he had first planned when he
appointed him Count of Apulia, but changed his mind for some inexplicable reason,

Hylli i Drites
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Re: Anna Comnena

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Post by Hylli i Drites » Sat Jun 13, 2009 3:37 pm

and took him with him too. During his crossing to Dyrrachium, the force which he
had detached gained possession of the very strongly fortified town of Corfu, and
certain other of our forts. After receiving hostages from Lombardy, and Apulia, and
raising taxes and contributions in money from the whole country, Robert hoped to
land at Dyrrachium. Duke of all Illyricum at that time was George Monomachatus,
who had been appointed by the Emperor Botaniates. Once, indeed, he had refused this
mission, and he was by no means easily persuaded to take up this branch of service,
but he finally went because two of the EmperorÕs barbarian servants (Borilus and
Germanus, Scythians by extraction) bore a grudge against him. These men were ever
inventing scandalous charges against him, and denouncing him to the Emperor, for
they strung together whatever tales entered their heads, and inflamed his anger
against him to such a pitch that, turning to the Queen Maria, he actually said, ÒI
suspect this Monomachatus of being an enemy to the Roman Empire.Ó
John, one of the Alani, and a devoted friend of Monomachatus, heard this, and as
he was aware of the ScythiansÕ spiteful and frequent accusations against him, he went
to Monomachatus, and repeated to him both the EmperorÕs words and those of the
Scythians, and advised him to consult his own interests. Thereupon, Monomachatus, a
prudent man, approached the Emperor, and after appeasing him with skilful flattery,
eagerly accepted the post at Dyrrachium. So, having taken leave of the Emperor
previous to his departure for Epidamnus, and receiving his orders about the Duchy in
writing (and those Scythians, Borilus and Germanus, did their best to expedite the
matter), he quitted the royal city on the morrow for his destination, Epidamnus and
the country of Illyricum. But he met my father Alexius near the so-called Pege; here a
church has been built in honour of my mistress, the Virgin-mother of our Lord, which
is famous among the churches of Byzantium. They saw each other there, and
Monomachatus at once began an impassioned speech to the Great Domestic. He told
him that he was being exiled because of their mutual friendship, and because of the
envy of the Scythians, Borilus and Germanus. This covetous couple, he said, had
turned the wheel, so to say, of their universal maliciousness against him in full
revolution; and were now banishing him from his friends, and this beloved city, for
seemingly good reasons. Thus he told his tale of woe in detail, and all the false
information given about him to the Emperor, and all he had endured at the hands of
these servants; and the Domestic of the West deigned to console him as much as
possible, and verily he was well-fitted to relieve a soul bowed down with troubles.
And saying finally that assuredly God would avenge these insults, and with a
reminder to him never to forget their friendship, they parted, the one bound for
Dyrrachium, and the other to enter the imperial city. When Monomachatus reached
Dyrrachium he heard two pieces of news; firstly, the tyrant RobertÕs military
preparations, and, secondly, the revolt of Alexius; so he carefully weighed what his
own conduct should be. Ostensibly he displayed hostility to both, but he had really a
deeper plan than that of open warfare. For the Great Domestic had informed him by
letter of the late occurrences, namely, that he had been threatened with the loss of his
eyes, and that, in consequence of this threat, and of the tyrannous act that was being
practised, he had taken measures against his enemies. He called upon Monomachatus
to rise in rebellion also on behalf of his friend, and to collect money wherever he
could, and send it to him. ÒFor,Ó he wrote, Òwe are in need of money, and without
money, nothing of what should be done, can be done.Ó However, Monomachatus did
not send money, but spoke kindly to the ambassadors, and instead of money,
entrusted them with a letter conceived in this strain-he still preserved his old
friendship for Alexius, and promised to retain it in the future; and, with regard to the
money he ordered, he (Monomachatus) longed to send him as much as he wanted.
ÒBut,Ó he wrote, Òa point of justice restrains me. For I received this appointment from
the Emperor Botaniates, and I swore the oath of fealty to him. Therefore, I should not
appear, even in your eyes, a loyal subject as far as Emperors are concerned, were I at
once to comply with your request. But if divine providence allots the imperial throne
to you, then as I have been your friend from the beginning, so after this event I shall
be your most faithful servant.Ó This excuse Monomachatus made to my father, and
tried to conciliate him (I mean my father) and Botaniates, simultaneously, but he also
sent a much plainer message to the barbarian Robert, and then broke forth into open
rebellion, and for this I must condemn him severely. But perhaps this kind of unstable
conduct, ever changing with the changes in the government, is but natural; and all
such men are prejudicial to the public weal, but steer a safe course for themselves, for
they study nothing but their own personal interests, and even so they generally fail.
Behold, my steed has run off the high road of my history, but although he is out of
hand, I must bring him back to our former road. Robert, indeed, had ever been wildly
impatient to cross into our country, and was ever dreaming of Dyrrachium, but now,
on receipt of MonomachatusÕ message, his ardour burst all restraint, and he pushed on
the naval expedition with all his might and main, and hurried up the soldiers, and
whipped up their courage by stimulating addresses. Monomachatus, having set things
in trim in this direction, now began constructing a second place of refuge for himself
in another place. For he won over Bodinus and Michaelas, the Exarchs of Dalmatia by
his letters, and influenced their decisions by opportune gifts; thus opening secretly, as
it were, various doors for himself. For he reasoned that if he were to fail with Robert
and Alexius, and be rejected by both of them, then he would turn deserter, and go
straight to Bodinus and Michaelas in Dalmatia. For, supposing that Robert and Alexius
declared themselves his enemies, he placed his remaining hopes on Michaelas and
Bodinus, and arranged to flee to them, should the feelings of Robert and Alexius be
plainly adverse to him. But here we will let these matters rest. It is high time I should
turn to my fatherÕs reign, and relate how and why he became ruler. I do not intend to
narrate his life before he became ruler, but all his successes and failures as Emperor; if
we shall occasionally find him unsuccessful in the course of the long stretch we are to
traverse, I should not spare him for being my father if anything he did struck me as
not well done; nor shall I gloss over his successes to avoid the under-current of
suspicion that it is a daughter writing about her father, for in either case I should be
wronging truth. This, then, is my aim, as I have repeatedly stated already, and the
subject I have chosen is the Emperor, my father. We will leave Robert in the spot to
which our history has brought him, and now consider the EmperorÕs doings. We shall
reserve the wars and battles against Robert for a later book.



BOOK II
I. We must refer the reader who wishes to know the place and lineage from which
Alexius sprang, to my C¾sarÕs history, and thence he can also extract information
about the Emperor Nicephorus Botaniates.
Now Manuel was the elder brother of Isaac and Alexius and in fact, the first
begotten of all the children descended through John Comnenus from my paternal
grandfather. He was general in sole command over the whole of Asia to which the
former emperor, Romanus Diogenes, had appointed him, whereas the principality of
Antioch had elected Isaac by lot as their Duke; these two had fought in many wars and
battles, and many trophies too they had erected over their opponents. And after these
my father Alexius was promoted to be General-in Chief, and dispatched against Ursel
by Michael Ducas, the reigning emperor.
Later on the Emperor Nicephorus also observed his expertness in warfare and
heard how, while serving under his brother Isaac in the East, he had taken part in
many contests and proved himself valiant beyond his years, and when he considered
the manner in which Alexius had worsted Ursel, he made just as conspicuous a
favourite of him as he did of Isaac. He took the two brothers to his heart and looked
upon them with joy, sometimes even inviting them to share his table. This enkindled
the envy of others against them and most especially that of the two aforementioned
Slavonic barbarians, Borilus and Germanus. For seeing the EmperorÕs goodwill
towards the brothers and that the latter remained unharmed by the darts that malice
hurled at them, they were consumed with wrath. As the Emperor saw that Alexius,
although his beard was as yet scarce grown, was held in high repute by all, he
appointed him absolute General of the West and honoured him with the rank of
Proedros. Of all the trophies which he set up throughout the West also and of the
various rebels he conquered and brought as captives to the Emperor sufficient has
been said already. But these doings did not please those two slaves but rather fanned
the flames of their envy: They went about growling and purposing evil against them
in their hearts, and told the King many tales in confidence and others in public or
suborned others to tell him, for their desire was, no matter by what means, to get
these brothers out of the way. In this distressing situation the Comneni judged it
prudent to cultivate the officers of the womenÕs apartments and through them to win
in still greater measure the QueenÕs affection. For the brothers were charming men
and able with their varied wiles to soften even a heart of stone. Isaac could do this the
more easily as the Queen some time before had chosen him to marry her own cousin;
he was a perfect gentleman both in word and deed and most like my own father. But
since his own affairs had prospered so well, he took much thought for his brother
Alexius, and as the latter had formerly helped him with all his power in arranging his
marriage, so he in his turn now desired to see Alexius stand high in the QueenÕs
favour. It is said that the friends Orestes and Pylades had such a deep love for each
other that in time of battle either would be quite indifferent to his own foes but would
ward off those who attacked his friend, and either would offer his own breast to
receive the darts thrown at the other. Exactly the same phenomenon could be
witnessed in the case of these two. For either brother tried to anticipate the otherÕs
dangers; and whatever prizes and honours one gained, in short the good fortune of
the one, the other considered his own, and vice versa, such close affection bound them
to each other. By the help of heaven, IsaacÕs interests had been thus secured; and after
no long interval the officials of the womenÕs apartments lent a willing ear to IsaacÕs
suggestion that the queen should adopt Alexius. The Queen listened to them; and the
two brothers came to the palace on an appointed day, and then she adopted Alexius
according to the ritual prescribed from of old for such cases. Thus for the future the
Great Domestic of the Western armies was relieved of a great anxiety. Thenceforth
they both visited the palace very often and after paying their respects to the Emperor
and staying with him a little they went in to the Queen. All this still further inflamed
the envy of others against them, as the Comneni were often assured, and consequently
they lived in fear of being caught in their enemiesÕ snares. As they had no protector,
they cast about for a means by which, with GodÕs help, they might ensure safety for
themselves. After revolving many plans with their mother and examining various
schemes at various times they discovered one path which as far as man can judge,
might lead to safety. This was to approach the Queen when some plausible reason
offered, and tell her their secret. Yet they kept their plan underwater and did not
reveal their whole design to anyone, but like fishermen they were careful not to
frighten away their prey. They intended, indeed, to run away but had been afraid to
tell the Queen this, lest she might disclose their intentions to the emperor
prematurely in her anxiety for the two parties, to wit, her husband and the brothers.
After having settled on this plan, they turned their attention elsewhere for they were
adepts in making full use of any opportunities that might occur.
II. The Emperor was now too old to have expectations of a son and as he dreaded
the inevitable stroke of death, he began to consider the question of his successor. At
that time there was at court a certain Synadenus of Eastern origin and illustrious
descent, fair of face, of profound intellect, courageous in battle, verging on young
manhood, and above all akin to the emperor by race. In preference to all others the
Emperor thought of leaving him as successor to the Empire, giving him the kingdom
as his ancestral portion so to speak, and in this he was ill advised. For he would have
ensured perfect safety and also regarded justice by bequeathing the imperial power to
the QueenÕs son, Constantine, as the portion rightly accruing to him, as it were,
through his grandfather and father, and this would have increased the QueenÕs
confidence in him and gained her goodwill However, the old man failed to see that he
was arranging matters in a way which was not only unjust but also disastrous, and
was begetting troubles for himself. The Queen heard whispers of this and was very
sad as she foresaw danger to her son; but though she was despondent she did not
openly voice her grief to anyone. This did not escape the notice of the Comneni, and
they determined, if they could find the opportunity they sought, to approach the
Queen. Their mother furnished Isaac with a pretext for a conversation with the Queen,
and his brother Alexius went with him. When they were admitted to the Queen Isaac
said: ÒLady, we do not behold you in the same health as heretofore, but you seem
worried and obsessed by unbearable thoughts and without the courage to reveal your
secret to anybody.Ó However, she would not speak out for some time, but sighing
deeply replied: ÒIt is not right to question those who live away from home, for that in
itself is sufficient source of grief to them. But as for myself, alas! what sorrows have
come upon me, one after the other, and how many more methinks are in store for me
shortly.Ó The brothers stood aloof and added no more words, but with eyes cast down
and both hands covered, stood a minute plunged in thought and then made their usual
obeisance and departed home in deep distress. The next day they came again to talk to
her, and seeing that she looked at them more cheerfully than the day before, they both
went close up to her and said: ÒYou are our mistress and we are your most devoted
slaves, ready to die, if need be, for our Queen. And do not let any consideration
unnerve you and lead you to indecision.Ó Upon these words they gave the Queen an
oath and after freeing themselves from all suspicion they easily guessed her secret, for
they were sharp witted, shrewd, and expert in divining from a few words a manÕs
deeply hidden and hitherto unexpressed opinion. Straightway they associated
themselves still more closely with the Queen and making their goodwill clear to her
by many proofs they promised they would bravely assist her in any undertaking to
which she summoned them. ÒRejoice with them that rejoice and weep with them that
weep,Ó that is indeed the apostolic injunction, and this they willingly observed. They
asked the Queen to count them as her countrymen and intimates as they were sprung
from the same stock as she was; and one thing more they urged-that she should not
hesitate to divulge it to them immediately if either she, or the Emperor, got wind of a
plot being formed against them by their rivals, and thus save them from
unconsciously falling into their enemiesÕ snares. This favour they asked and begged
her be of good cheer, saying that with GodÕs help they would gladly bring adequate
help and as far as depended on them, her son Constantine should not be ousted from
the empire. And they insisted too in ratifying their agreement by oaths, for there was
no time to lose because of their jealous opponents. So the brothers were relieved of a
great anxiety and recovered their spirits and from now on showed a cheerful
countenance in their conversations with the Emperor. They were both, but Alexius
more especially, practised in concealing a secret intention and a deeply laid plan by
external pretences. But as the burning envy of others was now growing into a mighty
fire, and nothing of what was said against them to the Emperor was any longer
concealed from them owing to the agreement (with the Queen), they recognized that
those two all-influential slaves were scheming to get them out of the way;
consequently they no longer went together to the palace as had been their custom, but
singly, on alternate days. This was a wise and Palamedean precaution to prevent their
both perhaps falling into the barbariansÕ snares at the same time, for if only one were
caught by the intrigues of those all-powerful Scythians, the other could escape. Such
then was their precaution. However, matters turned out for the brothers very
differently from what they had feared, for they anticipated their rivals in the race for
power, as my story, starting from this point, will show very clearly.
III. About this time the city of Cyzicus was taken by the Turks; directly the
Emperor learnt of the capture of the city, he sent for Alexius Comnenus. Now it
chanced that on that day Isaac had come, and when he saw his brother entering the
palace contrary to their agreement, he went up to him and asked the reason for his
coming. Alexius immediately told him the reason, saying: ÒBecause the Emperor has
sent for me.Ó So they went in together and made the customary obeisance, and as it
was nearly the hour for lunch the Emperor told them to stay for a little and then
commanded them to sit down at table with him. And they were separated, for one sat
on the right side of the table, and the other on the left, opposite each other. In a few
minutes they looked intently at the attendants standing about and saw they were
whispering with gloomy countenances. Then they feared lest the two slaves were
meditating a sudden attack on them and that danger was nigh at hand, so they looked
stealthily at each other and knew not what to do. Long before this they had won over
all those in attendance on the Emperor by soft words, and paying court to them with
divers forms of greetings; and by shaking hands with him they had even coaxed the
head-cook into looking at them with a friendly eye. To this head-cook there came now
one of Isaac ComnenusÕ servants and said: ÒTell my master of the fall of Cyzicus! for a
letter has come from there with this news.Ó Then the cook carried in the meat to the
table and at the same time informed Isaac in a low voice of what he had heard from
the servant. Isaac in turn by moving his lips slightly, notified the message to Alexius;
and Alexius, who had very keen intuition and was quicker than fire, at once grasped
what he had said, and they both recovered from the anxiety which had held them. And
pulling themselves together they considered how they might answer readily if
anyone asked them about it and also give the right advice to the Emperor if he
consulted them. While they were busy with these reflections the Emperor looked at
them, taking for granted they did not know about Cyzicus, and told then of its
capture. Then they roused the EmperorÕs depressed spirits (for they were ready to
minister to his soul which was agitated by the sack of his cities) and heartened him up
with fair hopes by assuring him that the city could be recovered easily. ÒThe one thing
needful,Ó they said, Òis that your Majesty should be safe; and as for the captors of the
city they shall render sevenfold into your bosom that which they have taken.Ó Then
indeed the Emperor was delighted with them and dismissing them from the feast,
spent the rest of the day free from care. Henceforward the Comneni made it their
business to visit the palace and pay court to the men about the emperor even more
assiduously; for they did not wish to give their adversaries the slightest handle, nor to
afford them any pretext whatever for hatred, but on the contrary to win all over to
liking them and being on their side both in thought and speech. They also exerted
themselves to win over the Empress Maria more completely and to convince her that
they only lived and breathed for her. Isaac for his part with the excuse of his marriage
to her cousin, used his freedom of access to the utmost, whilst Alexius, my father,
alleging his nearness of kin but still more his adoption, as a brilliant reason, visited
the Queen, without arousing anybodyÕs suspicion and threw a veil over the envy of
his ill wishers. But he was well aware of the fierce resentment of those barbarian
slaves and also of the EmperorÕs extreme lightheadedness. So they naturally took
thought how not to fall from his good favour, as, in that case, they might become a
prey to their enemies. For light-headed dispositions are ever unstable and like the
Euripus, they drift, as it were, on ever-changing currents.
IV. When the slaves saw that matters were not progressing along the lines they
wished and that the destruction of such men was not an easy job as the EmperorÕs
goodwill towards them augmented daily, they broached many plans and as often
rejected them and finally settled on another course. And what was it?-it was to send
for them one night without the rulerÕs knowledge and to put them out of the way by
trumping up some false charge and boring out their eyes. The Comneni heard of this.
As they recognized that danger was very near they decided after much internal
conflict that their only hope of safety lay in rebellion and that they were driven to it
by dire necessity. For what sense was there in waiting for the red hot iron to be
applied which would quench the light of their eyes for ever? Therefore they kept this
decision deep down in their minds. Soon after this Alexius (who was at that time
Domestic of the Western Empire) was ordered to call up to the city a certain division
of the army to be prepared for marching against the Hagarenes who had sacked the
city of Cyzicus. Seizing this reasonable opportunity, he summoned by letter those
officers in the army who were well disposed to himself and their respective troops.
These were all mobilized and hurried up to the metropolis. In the meantime
somebody at the suggestion of that fellow, Borilus, one of the slaves, asked the
Emperor whether it was by his wish that the Great Domestic was introducing all the
forces into the city. The Emperor at once sent for Alexius and asked him whether this
report was true; to which Alexius immediately answered that part of the army was
coming in by his, the EmperorÕs, orders, and as for the whole of it being assembled
there from all parts he parried the question plausibly. ÒThe army you see,Ó he said,
Òhas been scattered in all directions, and now the various regiments which have
received the signal are coming up from their different stations. And those who see
them streaming in from various quarters of the Roman dominions, think the whole
army is being assembled as if by agreement and are misled by mere appearance.Ó
Although Borilus had many objections to make to this speech, yet even so Alexius
prevailed and was acquitted by the votes of all. Germanus who was simpler-minded,
did not ran down Alexius much. As the EmperorÕs soul was not perturbed even by
these allegations against the Domestic, the slaves seized the opportunity and set about
preparing an ambush for the Comneni. Now slaves are anyhow by nature hostile to
their masters, but when they cannot injure their masters, they turn their power against
their fellow servants, and become quite insupportable. Of this type of character and
spirit Alexius had experience in the case of these slaves I am speaking of. For they did
not bear resentment against the Comneni from love of the Emperor, but Borilus even
aimed at the throne, some said, and as Germanus was his partner in the plot, he

Hylli i Drites
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Re: Anna Comnena

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Post by Hylli i Drites » Sat Jun 13, 2009 3:39 pm

helped him prepare the ambush carefully. And they discussed their plans together and
imagined that the affair would turn out to their satisfaction; and now they began to
speak openly of that which hitherto they had only mentioned below their breath. And
thus a certain man overheard their talk, an Alanian by descent, ÒmagisterÓ in rank,
who had long been attached to the emperor and counted among his intimates.
Consequently the Magister stole out during the middle watch of the night and ran to
the Comneni to report everything to the Great Domestic. Some have it that the
Empress was not altogether ignorant of the MagisterÕs visit to the Comneni. Alexius
took him into his mother and brother; and after giving ear to his abominable news,
they judged it necessary to execute the plan they had kept secret so long, and with
GodÕs help to compass their own safety. When, after the morrow, the Domestic had
heard that the army had occupied Tzouroulus (this is a little town lying Thrace-wards)
he went in the first watch of the night to Pacurianus and related everything to
himÑthis man was Òsmall indeed in stature, but a mighty warrior,Ó as the poet says,
and descended from a noble Armenian family. To him Alexius related the slavesÕ
anger and envy, and their long manoeuvres against them and their immediate
intention of blinding them. ÒBut,Ó he continued, Òwe cannot suffer these things as if
we were captives, but we will die, if need be, after fighting bravely; for this is the
prerogative of high-souled men.Ó Pacurianus listened to it all and seeing that such
circumstances admitted of no delay, but that some drastic step must be taken at once,
said, ÒIf when to-morrowÕs dawn breaks, you leave this city I will follow you and
fight willingly on your side. But if you put it off to the next day, then be assured that
without the slightest delay I shall go straight to the Emperor and denounce you and
your followers.Ó To which Alexius replied, ÒAs I see that you really care for my safety,
which is undoubtedly the work of God, I shall not reject your counsel, only let us
mutually secure ourselves by oath.Ó Thereupon they exchanged assurances with oaths
to the effect that if Providence raised Alexius to the Imperial throne, he should raise
Pacurianus to the rank of Domestic which he himself held in the meantime.
Taking leave of Pacurianus he hurried thence to another man, also Òfull of warlike
frenzy,Ó namely Hubertopoulus, told him of his own intentions and put before him
the reason why he had decided to escape, and invited him to join him. Hubertopoulus
immediately agreed, and added, ÒYou will always find me courageous, but more
especially so when I am braving danger on your behalf.Ó The reason above all others
why these men were devoted to Alexius was that he outshone others in courage and
intelligence; but they also loved him because he was exceptionally generous and very
ready to give, although he had not a great abundance of money. For he was not of
those who plunder and open their mouths wide for riches. True liberality is not as a
rule judged by the quantity of money supplied, but is weighed by the spirit of the
giver. In some cases a man of few possessions who pays in proportion to his income,
may justly be termed Òliberal,Ó whereas another who has much wealth and hides it in
a hole in the earth, or does not give to the needy in proportion to his wealth, would
rightly be styled Òa second CrÏsus,Ó or Òa Midas mad for gold,Ó or Òniggardly and
penuriousÓ or a Òcummin-splitterÓ! That Alexius was graced with all the virtues, the
men I have mentioned had known for a long time already, and for these reasons they
eagerly desired his elevation to the throne. After exchanging oaths with this officer
too, Alexius set off home at a run and told his people everything. It was the night of
Quinquagesima Sunday (or the ÒCheese-eatingÓ Sunday) when my father made these
arrangements; and on the following day at early dawn he had already left the city
with his partisans. Hence it was that the populace, who approved of AlexiusÕ spirit and
shrewdness, wove a little song to him about these occurrences, composed in their own
popular dialect, and it very cleverly strikes up the prelude of the affair and accentuates
his prescience of the plot against him and his consequent actions. In its original words
the song ran thus:
Òt¯ sŒbbaton t¶q tyrin¶q xareÁq |Alªjie ¨n¿hsªq to
kaç tîn deutªran t¯ prvÝ Üpa kal©q gerŒkin moyÓ

The meaning of that popular song is roughly this, ÒOn the Saturday named after
cheese, bravo to you for your shrewdness, Alexius! But on the Monday after the
Sunday you flew away like a high-flying hawk, out of the nets of the barbarians.Ó
V. Anna Dalassena, the mother of the Comneni, had lately managed to affiance
the grandson of Botaniates to the daughter of Manuel, her eldest son; and now
through fear of his tutor hearing of the scheme and divulging it to the emperor she
formed a very good plan. It was this, she ordered her whole household to assemble
that evening for the purpose, presumably, of making her devotions in the churches of
God-for it was her habit to visit the sanctuaries frequently. This was done. All were
present according to custom and they brought out the horses from the stables and
pretended to be carefully spreading such saddle-cloths on them as befitted the women.
BotaniatesÕ grandson and his tutor were asleep meanwhile, for a separate house
had been appointed to them. About the first watch the Comneni who were now quite
ready to arm themselves and ride away from the imperial city, locked the gates and
gave their mother the keys, and they also noiselessly closed the gates of the house in
which her nieceÕs betrothed, Botaniates, was sleeping, though they did not bring the
two leaves quite close together and fasten them perfectly for fear they should creak
and this noise wake the boy. In these doings the greater part of the night had passed.
Before the first cock-crow they opened the gates, and taking their mothers, sisters,
wives and children with them, they all walked together to the Forum of Constantine;
on arrival there the Comneni took leave of the women and hastened off very quickly
to the palace of Blachern¾, whilst the latter ran to the Church of the Divine Wisdom.
In the meantime BotaniatesÕ tutor had awakened and guessing what had happened,
went after them, torch in hand, and caught them up shortly before they reached the
precincts of The 40 Saints. On catching sight of him, Dalassena, the mother of those
two noble sons, said to him, ÒSomebody has denounced us to the emperor, I hear. I
will therefore make a round of the churches, and use their help as much as I can; and at
dawn of day I shall go from them to the palace. So do you go there now and directly
the porters open the gates, apprise them of our coming.Ó And he straightway went off
to do as he was bid. Then the women arrived at the precincts of Bishop Nicholas
(which has retained its name of ÒThe SanctuaryÓ to this day), this stands near the large
church and was founded long ago for the protection of those being taken for crimes, as
being a part of the large precinct, and was purposely constructed by our ancestors so
that if anyone who had been convicted of a crime managed to take refuge there, he
was released from the penalty of the law. For the old Emperors and C¾sars shewed
great consideration for their subjects. But the watchman of this church did not unbolt
the doors for the women quickly, but asked, ÒWho they were and whence they came,Ó
whereupon one of the womenÕs attendants said, ÒThey are women from the East, who
have spent all their means, and are hastening to pay their acts of devotion so as to be
free to return home.Ó Then the man immediately unbolted the doors and gave them
admission. At the morrowÕs assembly of the Senate, the Emperor, who had learnt of
the brothersÕ doings, spoke as was to be expected and inveighed severely against the
Domestic. And afterwards he sent two men, Straboromanus and Euphemianus by
name, to fetch the women to the palace. But Dalassena said to them: ÒGive the
Emperor this message: ÔMy sons are the faithful servants of your imperial Majesty and
have willingly served you at all times, sparing neither their lives nor their bodies,
and have always been the first to risk everything for your empire. But the jealousy felt
by others who could not endure your MajestyÕs kindness and solicitude for them,
caused them to stand in great and hourly peril; and when finally their enemies
decided to blind them, they got wind of it, and as they could not endure such
undeserved peril they left the city, not as rebels but as your trusty servants, firstly, in
order to escape this imminent danger and secondly, to inform your Majesty of the
plotting against them and to implore help from your Majesty.ÕÓ But the messengers
urgently pressed her to come with them, until the woman grew indignant and said,
ÒAllow me to enter GodÕs church and pay my devotions to Him. For it is ridiculous to
come as far as the entrance and not go in and implore the mediation of Our
Immaculate Mistress, the Mother of God, both for the cause of God and the life of the
Emperor.Ó Then the ambassadors respecting her reasonable request, allowed her to
enter. She advanced slowly as a woman worn out with age or grief would, or rather
she simulated fatigue, and when she had almost reached the very entrance of the
Sanctuary, she made two genuflexions and at the third collapsed on the ground, and
clinging to the Royal Doors cried out: ÒUnless my hands are cut off, I shall not leave
these holy precincts, until I receive the EmperorÕs cross as pledge of my safety.Ó
Hereupon Straboromanus pulled out the cross he carried in his bosom and gave it to
her, but she replied, ÒI am not asking for assurance from you, but from the Emperor
himself I demand the security I have mentioned. And I will certainly not accept a cross
sent to me if it is of minute size, but it must be of respectable size.Ó (This she required
in order that the pledge given to her might be clearly seen; for if the promise were
made over a small cross, most of the onlookers would probably not have observed its
ratification.) ÒIt is that manÕs verdict and mercy I require. Begone, take him my
message!Ó And next her daughter-in-law, the wife of Isaac (who had managed to slip
into the church at the time of the opening of the gates for the early hymn) drew aside
the veil covering her face and said to them, ÒWell, she for her part may go, if she likes;
but we will not leave this church without assurances, even though death lay before
us.Ó Then the man seeing the stubbornness of the women and realizing that they were
growing bolder towards them than at first, and fearing some tumult might arise, went
away and told the whole tale to the emperor. And he, being kindly by nature and
touched by the womanÕs words, sent her the cross she asked for and gave her full
immunity. And when she had come out of the church he ordered her with her
daughters and daughters-in-law to be confined in the convent of the Petrii which is
situated close to the {Gate} Sidera. The emperor also had her marriage-relation, the
wife of the emperor John (who held the rank of Protovestiaria), fetched from the
sanctuary in Blachern¾, which had been founded in honour of our mistress, the
Mother of God, and consigned her as well to the convent of the Petrii, and gave orders
that their stores of wine and corn and all their private possessions should be
preserved intact. Every morning then, the two women went to the guards and
enquired whether they had any news of their sons; and the soldiers dealt fairly
frankly with them and told all they had heard. But the ÒMistress of the Wardrobe,Ó a
woman generous in hand and mind, desired to conciliate their guards and so told
them to take as much of their eatables as they liked for their own use, for the women
were allowed to have all they required brought in without let or hindrance. From that
time on the guards became more ready with their news and consequently not a detail
of all the Comneni were doing was concealed from the women.
VI. So much then for the women. Now the rebels on their part when they had
reached the gate in the circular walls of Blachern¾, burst its lock and thus had free
access to the royal stables. And some of the horses there they left after first slitting
their hind-legs from the thigh downwards with the sword, and of the rest they chose
those which seemed to them in the best condition, and thence betook themselves with
all speed to the monastery, somewhere near the city, called Cosmidium. And here, if I
may insert something to make my tale run more clearly, they found the afore
mentioned Mistress of the Wardrobe, before the Emperor sent to fetch her, as I have
told. They took their leave of this woman when they were ready to ride away and
they persuaded George Pal¾ologus to take sides with them and compelled him to
depart with them. For before this they had not divulged their plans to him because of
a natural suspicion; for the father of this George was extremely devoted to the
Emperor, and therefore revealing their project of rebellion to him would have been
rather dangerous. And at first indeed, Pal¾ologus did not show himself at all
amenable, but opposed many objections and reproved them for their breach of faith to
the emperor and for the fact that, as the proverb has it, they became turncoats. But
when the Mistress of the Wardrobe, Pal¾ologusÕ mother in-law, insisted firmly on his
joining them, under threat of dire punishment, he began to yield and his next concern
was for the safety of the women, namely his wife Anna and his mother-in-law Maria,
for the latter was descended from one of the first families of Bulgaria and was so
attractive by reason of the beauty and grace of limbs and features that she was
considered the most beautiful of all the women then living. Thus George and Alexius
were not free from anxiety about her, and both felt that the women must be removed
from that place, but while AlexiusÕ party advised their being conveyed to some
fortress, Pal¾ologus suggested the sanctuary of our Lady in Blachern¾ and GeorgeÕs
opinion prevailed. So they went off at once with these women and placed them under
the care of the Holy Mother of the all-embracing Word. On their return to the place
whence they started, they consulted on their best course of action, and Pal¾ologus
said, ÒYou two must get away from here; and I will soon overtake you and bring my
property with me.Ó For as it happened he had all his movable property stored there.
Without further delay therefore the Comneni started on their journey; and, after
loading his property on the monksÕ beasts of burden, Pal¾ologus rode after them.
And he came up with them at Tzouroulus (a Thracian village) where by a lucky chance
they all joined the army which had occupied it by command of the Domestic. Then
thinking it right to send news of their doings to John Ducas, the ex-emperor, who was
at that time living on his own property in the country of Morobundus, they
dispatched a messenger to inform him of their rebellion. The man carrying the
message happened to arrive at early dawn and was standing outside the gates of the
farm asking for the Emperor. And his grandchild John, still quite a child, not even a
boy yet, and consequently always with the Emperor, saw the man and at once ran in,
woke up his grandfather who was still asleep, and told him of the rebellion. But the
latter astounded by the words, gave the child a box on the ears, and advising him not
to talk nonsense, sent him off. In a little while, however, he came back again, bringing
the same news, and in addition the message addressed to his grandfather by the
Comneni. Now this message had an excellent touch of wit in it which hinted at
AlexiusÕ doings, for it said: ÒWe on our side have prepared a right good meal, not
wanting in rich condiments, but if you on your side wish to share this banquet, you
must come with all speed to partake of it.Ó Then the Emperor sat up and propping
himself on his right elbow bade them bring in the messenger, and when this man had
finished his tale about the Comneni, he at once exclaimed: ÒWoe is me!Ó and clapped
his hands over his eyes. And after grasping his beard for a time, as a man will when
revolving matters of deep import in his mind, he settled on this one point, namely,
that he too would yield to their wish. Therefore he immediately summoned his
grooms and mounting his horse, rode off to join the Comneni. On the way he chanced
upon a Byzantine who was carrying a heavy purse of gold and travelling to the
capital, so in the words of Homer he asked him, ÒWho and whence art thou?Ó On
learning that he had collected a large sum from certain taxes and was conveying it to
the treasury, he urged him to halt for the night with him, promising that at daybreak
he should go off where he liked. At the otherÕs refusing and getting angry, the
Emperor insisted all the more and finally persuaded him-for he was marvellously
glib of speech and quick in thought, and persuasion sat on his tongue as if he were a
second ®schines or Demosthenes. So he took him with him and turned in at an inn,
where he detained him by looking after him kindly in all ways, making him share his
table and seeing that he could rest comfortably. But at dawn just when the sun was
climbing up the eastern horizon, the Byzantine spread the cloths on the horses and
was for hurrying off to ride at full speed to Byzantium. The Emperor seeing this
called: ÒStop and travel with us,Ó but the other not knowing where he was going and
being moreover quite in the dark about the reason which made him the object of so
much solicitude, became vexed and suspicious again of the Emperor and his friendly
ways. But the Emperor insisted and began pulling at him, and as the other still did not
yield, he changed his manner and spoke more roughly and threatened him if he
would not do as he was ordered. As the other still did not obey he ordered all the
strangerÕs possessions to be packed with his own on his beasts and started on his
journey, giving the other permission to go where he liked. Then the man abandoned
his intention of going to the Palace from fear of being imprisoned if the Treasury
officials saw him come with empty hands; again he was not anxious to return home
because of the unsettled and confused state of the country resultant upon the rebellion
of the Comneni which had emerged, and so against his will he followed the Emperor.
And next the following incident took place. As he was starting, the Emperor fell in
with some Turks who had just crossed the river Eurus {Hebrus}. So drawing reign, he
enquired whence and whither they were going, and straightway promised them much
money and all kinds of rewards if they would accompany him to the Comneni-and so
they consented. Later he demanded an oath from their leaders as he wished to confirm
their agreement by it, and this they immediately gave after their fashion and assured
him that they would most readily fight on the side of the Comneni. After this he
started taking the Turks with him as well to the Comneni. The latter saw him from
afar and were overjoyed at his strange booty, and they both, but especially my father
Alexius, could scarcely contain themselves for delight. Alexius went to meet him and
embraced and kissed him. And what followed? At the EmperorÕs suggestion and
suasion they set forth on the road leading to the capital. And all the men from the
country-towns flocked to Alexius as volunteers and proclaimed him Emperor-the only
exception were the men of Orestias who had an old grudge against him for having
captured Bryennius, and therefore they adhered to the part of Botaniates. When they
had reached the Athyras, they rested there for one day and then pushed on and
reached Schiza (which is also a village in Thrace) and formed an entrenched camp
there.
VII. The whole world, agog with excitement, was eagerly looking forward to
what would happen and each longed to see the man who was expected to be
proclaimed Emperor. The majority certainly wished Alexius to gain that honour, but
neither were IsaacÕs partisans idle, but as far as possible, they solicited everybody.
And thus matters were apparently at a deadlock, for half the population desired to see
the elder, and the other half desired to see the younger, brother raised to be pilot of
the imperial dignity. Amongst the men present at that time were several of AlexiusÕ
kinsmen, for instance, the above-mentioned Emperor, John Ducas, a man clever in
council and swift in action (whom I also saw once for a short time) and Michael and
John, his grandsons, as well as the husband of their sister, George Pal¾ologus. These
helped each other and worked hard to convert all peopleÕs opinions to their own, and
letting out every reef, as they say, skilfully used every possible expedient for getting
Alexius proclaimed. Consequently they won people over to agree with them, with the
result that the number of IsaacÕs partisans gradually diminished. For wherever the
Emperor John was, not a single person was able to resist him, as he was unrivalled in
the dignity of his principles, the size of his body, and his king-like appearance. What
did the Ducases not do? What did they not say? What good thing did they not promise
both to the leaders and the whole army, if Alexius were raised to the Imperial

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